Between the 77th and 90th minutes of the finals of the UAAP Season 81 Men’s Football Tournament, the De La Salle University Men’s Football Team were set to become kings of the division for the first time since 1998.
However, come the first minute of added time, disaster truck as Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles forward Jarvey Gayoso latched on substitute Luca Alleje’s pass to equalize right at the death. From then on, it was downhill for La Salle as midfielder Julian Roxas headed home the winner in stoppage time.
“I can personally say that it is hard to get over a heartbreak like that, but we can only power through and improve ourselves. The worst experiences are our greatest teachers. And so, with this, we picked ourselves up and started focusing right away for this coming season, bringing with us maturity and experience in the game,” said skipper Jed Diamante.
Nearly 10 months after that game, though, any ounce of pain from that loss has now evaporated and it merely serves as motivation to go one better for the looming campaign.
“The team is very excited to play in the upcoming season. We joined Ang Liga as our preseason tournament and just suffered one loss with two games left to play. The team has a positive attitude towards preseason games and pre-UAAP training preparations, which is very important to bring in the season,” explained defender Nathan Alcantara.
One notable absentee for the squad this year is Shanden Vergara, who earned an athletic scholarship abroad. However, his exit, alongside the likes of Yoshi Koizumi and Xavi Zubiri, opens pathways for new players to wear the famous La Salle jersey.
“The rookies have been performing very well. They have adjusted to the team’s system and have been establishing themselves as worthy to represent the university. We very much appreciate what the other players have contributed to the team and the university in the past seasons, and we can only build further from there. Promising as they are, the rookies are surely useful additions to the team’s artillery,” added Diamante.
Lasallians can expect the usual suspects such as Ateneo, UP, FEU and UST to stand in the way of the team in its quest to reclaim the overdue championship. Nevertheless, while the overall goal is clear, the team will stick to its ‘one game at a time’ mantra.
“What I think the team needs for this year is to follow the coaches’ instructions and always smile even though we go through some hardships,” concluded midfielder Paeng Siggaoat.