Another 3rd place finish was what the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles earned after their UAAP Season 78 Women’s Football Tournament campaign. The Lady Eagles were a win away from reaching the Finals for the first time in their school’s history, but they fell narrowly short despite their rollercoaster-like season.
“The aim talaga siyempre was to reach the finals but of course we wouldn’t want to settle for last place so our minimum target was third. We’re glad that we’re able to reach that. It was in us just lang talaga the whole time. We didn’t have to force it out. It was just in us,” defender Julia Sucgang said at the end of the Lady Eagles’ campaign.
It had been a fruitful conclusion for Ateneo as the Lady Eagles ended their campaign on a high note when they defeated the University of Santo Tomas, 4-1, to secure 3rd place. Ateneo midfielder Aina Martin said, “More than anything in this game, we really just showed each other that we can do it and we can score four goals. We showed each other that we can do it.”
Down to their two final elimination round games, the Lady Eagles still had a chance to make the Finals despite the numerous reversals they had experienced in their campaign. No Ateneo game has ended in a draw, and it was heaven or hell for the Lady Eagles as they were either winners or losers once the full-time whistle blew. “I guess it was more of an uphill battle this season,” stated Sucgang.
For another Ateneo midfielder Cam Rodriguez, Ateneo had issues with their focus and consistency. Rodriguez said, “I mean from the start pa lang makikita mo that we did start strong. However, there was like a lack of focus but we bounced back. So it’s always just up and down. Would it be an improvement? I’d say performance-wise, yes. Mindset and heart, yes. We did play more as a team this year.”
Once Ateneo’s campaign had ended, there were bound to be changes in personnel; not just in players, but also in coaches. Coaches Bob Manlulo, Gely Tiu, and other members of the coaching staff have tendered in their resignation, while other players have either finished their eligibility or might not play for another year. Sucgang said, “I want to pursue my work. I wanna work already to teach or to host or acting” while Martin still isn’t sure of returning for Season 79. “It’s semi-open for the reason that I don’t have plans after graduation,” said Martin.
One person who’ll return for Ateneo, though, is Rodriguez. She divulged, “I’ll outright say it to everyone that I’m gonna play my fifth year especially because I don’t want to end my career in an injury and I feel like my job isn’t done yet.”
The past few years have seen some progress for the Lady Eagles. Ateneo finished in 4th place in Season 75, while they then finished in 3rd for the next three seasons including the current one. “When our batch entered, that was sort of a mine place in history because Ateneo has never placed, four years later we are here,” said Rodriguez.
“It can only go higher from here,” Martin declared, and Sucgang echoed the same sentiment.
Nevertheless, there is only one target for Ateneo. Rodriguez said, “Not just the finals slot but to win it all the way. That’s always the target, even this year. I guess now is just to rest. Shake off all the pressure and then when we’re all cool, we start back again.”
Come what may this Season 79, the Lady Eagles won’t stop until they win that championship.
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