On May 16, 2019, De La Salle University has an opportunity to accomplish what it has never done so far in the UAAP – become champions of the Men’s and Women’s Football divisions in the same season.
To say that the DLSU Women’s and Men’s Football Teams have had a challenging Season 81 is an understatement. The WFT played throughout the year with a huge burden on their shoulders, the responsibility to repeat the three-peat and cement another dynasty, which the school first succeeded in doing in Season 67.
On the other hand, The MFT qualified for the Final Four in the last day of the elimination round and dethroned defending champions University of the Philippines, 2-1, in a dramatic semi-finals clash.
The fact that both teams are on the cusp of greatness is a testament to those who lead them. Veteran striker Kyra Dimaandal captains the ladies while the men are led by midfielder Jed Diamante.
Grow through what you go through
In every campaign, there will always be moments of triumph and frustration, which can either help a team grow or hinder its development. The WFT and MFT are no different. They have experienced their ups and downs that helped them rise to where they are now.
“I saw how much the girls were committed and focused. (The most) painful (moments) were our draws (against University of Santo Tomas, University of the Philippines and Far Eastern University) because we knew we could do more but then again the ball is round. Although we are through with the past games, we’re now focused on the one that matters most,” said Dimaandal
On the other hand, Diamante felt that the losses the MFT experienced this season at the hands of University of the East, FEU, Ateneo and UP, only strengthened his squad’s resolve in its quest to enter the post-season.
The Engineering student explained, “Each loss helped us grow more as a team as we are the youngest. The best moment for us this season was definitely booking our spot in the finals. Reaching this point in our season sums up all the sacrifices and hard work we have been dedicating to the team and the Lasallian community for the past year. We are now in the works of creating our destiny.”
Both skippers, though, credited the gentlemen in the sidelines who have helped them reach this stage of the campaign. Coaches Hans-Peter Smit, Alvin Ocampo, Elvin Marcellana, Jun Mark Saraga, Lolong Valencia and team manager Gyn de Vera have been there every step of the way to guide them.
“This year we were forced to make changes because of coach Hans’ health. Although the changes weren’t as drastic and we still use coach Hans’ system, the coaches have developed us in new areas and were able to pass down more knowledge about the game,” said Dimaandal.
“Much of the success of our team can be attributed to the efforts our coaches have been giving to mold this young team. Apart from the physical and technical training, they have been key players in preparing us mentally and spiritually to enhance our maturity this season. We can’t thank them enough for what they have done for this team,” added Diamante.
Demonstration of leadership
The Ateneo de Davao products are proud of how their teammates have sacrificed so much to get this far in Season 81. Being a Lasallian student-athlete is no joke as you will need to balance your studies, personal commitments with your responsibilities as a varsity athlete day in and day out.
With that said, Dimaandal and Diamante have added responsibilities as the leaders of their respective teams. It’s one thing to be a student-athlete, it’s another thing to become one of the appointed leaders for your team.
Dimaandal shared, “I told the girls before that the rules and implementations we do isn’t just because we can and have the power to do so. I explained to them that Dimples Tejada and I always have reasons for everything that we do for the team.”
“Sometimes we come out as the ‘bad cops’ because of our harsh treatment but then again you have to remind yourself it is necessary for the growth of the team. I just want the girls to know as well that Dimples and I just want the best for the team,” added the two-time champion.
As for Diamante, he comes as the third member of his family to have captained the MFT as he took on the armband from his older brothers Gio and Gelo and the biggest lesson he learned from them it to lead his teammates by example.
“This is the type of leadership Nathan (Alcantara) and I have been using. You can’t tell your teammates to make those extra runs if you don’t display urgency; you can’t tell them to do well in their academics if you don’t make a conscious effort to do well yourself; and you most definitely can’t tell them to have heart if you don’t have the grit and passion to win,” said the Season 78 Rookie of the Year.
“Together with this philosophy, we make sure that the purpose of why we do things are clearly explained to everyone in the team for them to have a better appreciation and understanding of what we do.”
It is never easy to lead a group of individuals who come from different walks of life. The nature of college recruitment means that a diverse range of people with different egos, lifestyles and work ethics, become accepted because of their capabilities. Coexistence between teammates can get complicated and failure to do so can mean bad results on the pitch.
“Handling a team with different personalities is a challenging yet fulfilling task. We try to form personal relationships with each member to put everyone on the same page. While Nate and I are still navigating our way through the responsibility of bringing a team together, we are very happy that the team responded positively,” concluded Diamante.
The opportunity of a lifetime
The reward for the WFT and MFT’s endeavors this Season 81 is a trip to this year’s finals and hoping to spoil the party are FEU and Ateneo respectively. To say that the stakes are high is an understatement. The ladies hope to seal a third straight title while men hope to end a two-decade championship drought.
It can also be La Salle’s first time to become champions of both divisions in a single season.
“We just focus on us. Although we study the dynamics of FEU, we don’t really rely on it. We know we have the ability to keep the title, and we trust one another, that each one is capable of the needed tasks is able to keep the title. I know the girls are all aiming for the same goal and are on the same page, and it actually makes a difference,” said Dimaandal.
Likewise, Diamante explained, “Everyone in the team has a vital role to play and there is no better time than now to dedicate our 110 percent to it. Further, the finals will be a game of mentality. As our coaches have been reminding us: the team with the bigger heart on the pitch will win. With this, we have to be prepared in mind, body, and spirit to enter the pitch with burning ANIMO in our hearts.”
With a potential double championship day for La Salle, May 16, 2019, can either end in painful heartbreak or euphoria. Diamante and Dimaandal, though, are banking on support from the Lasallian community and they hope to see a sea of green in the Rizal Memorial grandstand.
“A wise 13-year-old friend of mine once said that it doesn’t take only one foot of the scorer, twenty-two feet of the players on the pitch, or even the forty-four feet of the whole squad to score a goal. It takes one hundred feet as everyone – the squad, coaching staff, parents, and the whole community – plays a crucial part in winning a match. With this, we are very grateful for their valuable support,” said Diamante.
“I love DLSU and the community to be completely honest. I play because I don’t wanna let them down. I want them to exit the stadium feeling like they have their own medal as well,” concluded Dimaandal.