Out of the six individual awards available in the UAAP Season 81 Women’s Football Tournament, four of them were given to the De La Salle University Women’s Football Team, with two players getting dual gongs.
While the championship is the perennial end goal for La Salle, to see individual standouts reap the rewards that their fine performances merited is always a sight to behold.
For the Green & White, Tashka Lacson (Best Goalkeeper), Shai del Campo (Rookie of the Year and Best Striker) and Sara Castaneda (Best Midfielder and Most Valuable Player) were recognized for their stellar efforts among their peers.
With that said though, the trio had different reactions when their names were called by tournament commissioner Rely San Agustin.
“I wasn’t really interested with the individual awards, it was the championship that mattered the most,” said Castaneda who capped off her return to the collegiate scene with eye-catching performances at the middle of the park reminiscent of her first two years with La Salle.
Similar to Castaneda, fellow De La Salle Zobel product Del Campo received two awards for her exploits in Season 81. To gain one gong was one thing but to get two in your first year at the collegiate level was just amazing.
“I didn’t know what to feel. I was excited and shocked at the same time,” said Del Campo.
One player who successfully defended her individual honour from Season 80 was Lacson, who’s been La Salle’s main protagonist between the sticks for two years now. However, she credits her success to those in front of her.
“I was very grateful for the award, but I think my defence should also be recognized because they’re part of the reason why I was able to do my job well this season,” said the now two-time Best Goalkeeper awardee.
Coaches lit the way
One thing that all of them agreed with, however, is the importance of their coaching staff composed of long-time mentor Hans-Peter Smit, Alvin Ocampo, Elvin Marcellana, Lolong Valencia, Jun Mark Saraga, physical therapist Marco Villanueva and team manager Gyn de Vera.
“The coaching staff was always there for us, awards or no rewards. They basically guided us all to play our best,” explained Castaneda.
The coaches prepare the players months before the UAAP season began and watched over them until the very last whistle. All of their inputs have been followed as much as possible by the players, and all their hard work has paid dividends.
“Our coaches played a big role in the team. Every game they would always talk to me and guide me on what to do. They would always try to get my attention to getting myself in the game every time they see me getting lost or getting frustrated. They’ve been coaching me ever since I was in high school. The trust we’ve put in our relationship is something I’ve given importance to since day one,” shared Del Campo.
Simply put, without them at the helm, there probably wouldn’t be a three-peat for La Salle.
“They’ve been our mentors since day one, they never motivated us with the awards at the end of the season but rather they told us to do our best for ourselves, our team and the school and the rest will follow. I think that is very important because it motivates you to strive and work for something as a team rather than as an individual,” furthered Lacson.
Together everyone achieves more
Needless to say, the three student-athletes repeatedly emphasize that their achievements are byproducts from the efforts of those around them. Truth be told, having a team-first mentality is the true essence of football and the three players have this ingrained in them.
“There was no personal moment, everyone in the team performed their best and that is what led all us to win the championship. Without my teammates, none of us would’ve been able to perform our best,” said Castaneda.
Being a rookie, the temptation is there for Del Campo to rest on the laurels of her brilliant campaign. However, the national team player sees Season 81 as the start and not the end of her journey with the Green & White.
“This is just a taste of what’s to come but of course every season is different and I can’t do it alone without my teammates and everyone else who supports the team,” she said.
At the end of the day, it’s not the individual awards that count as the championship will always be the holy grail.
“I don’t believe it’s the award that will push any of us to play better in the following seasons. It’s the opportunity to continue the Lasallian tradition,” concluded Lacson.