Football Diaries: Finding Your Feet

When competing in the UAAP, players and coaches always instil in themselves the mindset that the season is always a marathon — not a sprint.

Halfway through the UAAP Season 81 Women’s Football Tournament first round, the De La Salle University Women’s Football Team is once again in the process of experiencing the highs and lows of a campaign.

Sporting a four-point haul after two games is not a bad record. Other teams would gladly have that in exchange for their meagre records. However, the ladies in green and white know that they have a huge target on their backs so for them to stay ahead of the pack the Archers have to do more than what many anticipate them to do.

Shooting Eagles down

La Salle did what everyone expected them to do in their first 90 minutes of the season by posting a 3-0 win against bottom side Ateneo.

The opening game of the season was always going to be tricky as it’s usually the time where rookies and veterans learn how to play together in the tournament. However, any rookie jitters did not stop freshmen Shai del Campo and Maye Mendaño from finding the back of the net in their first game with DLSU.

Winger Del Campo gave La Salle the advantage before Mendaño, almost immediately, stepped up to take and bury a penalty conceded by the Eagles. At that moment it looked like a win was on the cards for the Lasallians.

Never complacent, the ladies knew there was still work to be done in the second half. The ladies’ blazing start saw them rewarded with two deserved goals so it didn’t come as a surprise when they became more cautious in the final 45 minutes.

Capitalizing on Ateneo’s desperation to make a game out of it, La Salle punctuated the victory with a Kyra Dimaandal header on the counter-attack halfway into the second half. It was the last goal in what turned out to be a comfortable win for the Taft-based side.

Falling into the Tigresses’ trap

If the first game was tricky, the second game looked trickier. It was a bogey game waiting to happen. The Golden Tigresses lost to the Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws on the same day La Salle vanquished Ateneo, the Thomasians could not wait to get themselves back on track. For it to come against the team that denied them glory in back-to-back finals certainly poured in much-needed motivation.

While Kyra Dimaandal gave La Salle the lead early in the second half, UST answered back with two goals of their own to turn the game upside down.

“Against UST, we were completely out of our game. What we practised in training was not applied, also the adjustments that the coaches asked us to do were not applied in the game. I felt like we were playing our own separate games, there wasn’t any teamwork, we weren’t supporting each other like we normally do in training,” said Castañeda.

It took a late goal from Del Campo for La Salle to salvage a 2-2 draw, although both teams had chances in the end to steal all three points. La Salle goalie Tashka Lacson denied the Golden Tigresses with fine stops while Alvin Ocampo’s wards were rebuffed by the UST crossbar two times before the final whistle.

“Well, I think we need to improve our communication so that we’re more cohesive as a team and also we need to work on getting less rattled/pressured during games,” explained Lacson

It’s always about attitude

In the grander scheme of things, Ateneo and UST are obviously miles apart in the competition. The Lady Eagles have struggled ever since their star forward Cam Rodriguez’s graduation while the Golden Tigresses have dangerous players like Charisa Lemoran and Shelah Mae Cadag, who can rip teams apart on their day.

One thing that must remain consistent for La Salle in every game, though, is their attitude on the pitch, regardless of who’s the opposition.

“We need to play our game and not the opponent’s game. Let them adjust to us,” said coach Ocampo who lamented the mistakes the ladies made in terms of their passing and defending.

Doubts tend to creep into athletes’ minds when results don’t go their teams’ way. One draw shouldn’t be the cause of any alarm bells but questions must be raised after the team surrendered a one-goal lead to UST.

“I think we were lacking in confidence but I do not know why because we already had a pre-season tournament where we did well, and in training, we are also able to move the ball well but I do not know why we can’t apply it to the game,” said Castaneda.

Lacson, however, had a different take. “I don’t think we’re lacking in confidence. We all believe in each other and trust in each other it’s just a matter of not letting the pressure get to us. We have a lot to defend this year and I think it’s a big factor in how we approach the games.”

Whether or not the team drew against UST because of the players’ lack of confidence in themselves is a subjective matter for each individual. What’s important is that the team has shifted its focus to the next assignment.

On to the next one

With those two games out of the way, the team now needs to learn from their personal and group errors before it faces the University of the Philippines Lady Maroons who just pulled off a big win against the FEU Lady Tamaraws. That game is on March 16, 2019, 1:00 PM in Circulo Verde, Quezon City.

For del Campo, it is all about going back to arguably team sport’s most basic principle.

“Tiwala sa kakayahan ng sarili at sa mga kasama. Because to trust ourselves is to be able to trust that we can play and we can give our best to the fullest to work out more as a whole team,” said the De La Salle Zobel alumnus.

When the push comes to shove, the ladies only have themselves to rely on and with six games in the elimination round left, they still have many more obstacles to go through.

“They need to play like a champion team every game and don’t let up,” said Ocampo.