De La Salle University head coach Cholo Villanueva is pleased that his Lady Archers are entering the UAAP Season 86 Women’s Basketball Tournament as one of the dark horses for the championship.
The Lady archers were last year’s finalists and famously ended National University’s winning streak in the competition during a dramatic overtime win in the second round. Despite those achievements, NU and the University of Santo Tomas are considered this year’s favorites for the crown, not La Salle.
“That’s good because we’re under the radar. We want to surprise a lot of teams this year even if we’re a young team and we’re a rebuilding team,” said Villanueva. “It’s a good thing that most of them are talking about NU and UST but we’ll have a lot of surprises coming this year.
“For us in our program, we just want to improve each year. Coming from a finals stint last year hopefully, we’ll be doing the same this year. For example, for the strong teams, we wouldn’t know which is the strongest team for this year. I believe coach Tab (Baldwin) said earlier that it’s gonna be sorted out in the first round,” he continued.
“Hopefully, we’ll bring our adjustments and then we’ll move forward from there.”
Players like Ameng Torres and Fina Tchuido will not return to represent the Lady Archers this season, even though they were instrumental in Season 85’s finals run. La Salle, however, will have some returning faces who will prove to be pivotal this time around.
As always, the question is how this team can grow during the season. The challenge of returning to the finals will also be harder because other schools have taken note of La Salle’s victory over NU last season and have taken extra steps to form stronger teams this year.
“Of course, we’re very happy to get Bernice Paraiso to come back this year. She still has two playing years under her belt because of the pandemic. She brings a lot of leadership to our team and will make an impact coming into the season,” said the former Bay Area Dragons assistant.
“Other holdovers who I think will be key cogs in our campaign are Lee Sario, Krissy Binaohan, and then others like Bea Dalisay so some of the holdovers who were in our rotation from last year.”
For La Salle and its supporters, the hope is that the school goes one better in Season 86. The Lady Archers last won the championship in Season 76, and while they made finals appearances in Season 79 and Season 85, there were still no trophies or gold medals to celebrate.
The dream of going all the way is still there, and it’s about taking it one game at a time.
“We just need to have that competitive spirit, that Animo spirit that we always lean on, especially during adversities or tough times. Hopefully, we learn from our mistakes last year and improve in this year’s run for a championship,” said Villanueva.