In the history of the UAAP Women’s Football Tournament, there have only been two schools that have successfully defended the championship for three consecutive seasons – De La Salle University-Manila and Far Eastern University.
For Season 81, the current batch of the DLSU Women’s Football Team has an opportunity to repeat the feat that their predecessors accomplished 14 years ago, which is to win a third straight championship for the school.
To get to where it is today, the Taft school went through a fourth-place finish in Season 77 and a heartbreaking finals loss in Season 78, which in turn led to two very sweet championships. Trusting the process is one thing, translating it into glory is another.
Getting to this stage has been a wonderful journey so far for the team and its supports and it can even reach greater heights in the next few months. However, as the adage saying goes, the players will take it one game at a time.
It all starts in pre-season
With the margin of error so low in the UAAP, a proper off-season is important for every team that wants to win the gold. The ten-time champions enjoyed a productive pre-season, which only bodes well for the team.
Rookie Alisha del Campo shared, “The team trained 6 times a week, we also had tune-up games, joined small sided tournaments, and participated in 2018 PFF Women’s league as well. I can say that the PFFWL was a great start, not only that La Salle was the defending champions last season, we also continued to keep its title.”
However, preparations on the pitch are only one of the facets needed for a successful team. How a team also gels outside it is also important. Everything the squad did, from the PFFWL, various tuneup games and their rigorous training regiment also helped them become more united as a unit.
“Mas naging close yung bond ng team outside the field and naging strong ang communication inside the field,” said defender Chelo Hodges.
Seniors take on leadership role
In football, it does not matter who wears the captain’s armband. What’s important is that there are leaders on the field and at the sidelines. Those who were once rookies need to step up and become the new sentinels of the team. If players, particularly the veterans, fail to step up and take up leadership roles, that becomes a recipe for disaster.
Irish Navaja, who is on her last playing year for the Green and White, is one such player. She shared, “Now that I am a senior, it is a bit challenging because we have many rookies but we adjusted well as well as they adjusted to us. We are able to control them so that we’ll all be on the same page. I always remind them to double the effort when in training and encourage them to give their best at all times. Good leadership will lead us to what we are aiming for.”
But it’s not only on the pitch where the younger members of the team, specifically the rookies need guidance. At this day and age, proper leaders aren’t the ones who just bark instructions. They’re the ones who watch over their teammates and earn their respect on the pitch and away from it.
Hodges shared, “As a senior, I need to make sure that I can also help the lower batch to improve and to be like us in the future, especially the rookies. I help the rookies and other lower batch teammates in doing extra work in the afternoon. Outside the field, I’m making sure that they can talk to me whenever they need someone to talk to, not just a teammate for them but also an ‘ate’.”
Amidst all the talk of a dynasty in the competition, it’s easy to forget that this team is composed of student-athletes who come to training and fulfil their studies. Obviously, there will be pressure and expectation on these players to seal the deal for the three-peat. However, that goal is still a long way from their minds.
National team standout Sara Castaneda shared, “I do not think the pressure is coming from winning a third straight championship but how each team is trying to prepare for us, and how they are going to try to beat us. So we are just trying to go at it one game at a time. Yes, our goal would be to win the championship but it is just like every UAAP teams’ goal so we will really have to work for it.”
At the end of the day, players are only as good as their last game and teach fixture will be its own individual challenge for the team.
“Siguro for me, as a senior, reminding each of my teammate to always remember to keep our feet on the ground and always respect our opponents. Yes, we push ourselves to our limits, pero hindi naman sa point that we would burn out and lose the drive and passion that we have. Of course, for me yung pagiging champion talaga is the main goal for every season,” added Hodges.
What better way can the team start its quest for a three-peat than a victory over archrivals Ateneo de Manila University on March 6, 2019 (Wednesday), 3:00 PM at the Circulo Verde pitch in Quezon City.