When the De La Salle University Green Archers entered the UAAP Season 81 Men’s Football Tournament, they did so with a revamped lineup composed of 13 rookies and nine mainstays from the previous campaign.
What should have been a transitional year has become a season which has surpassed all expectations and logic. Who would have expected that such a young team could make the finals at the expense of defending champions UP Fighting Maroons?
The likes of goalkeepers Franz Brosoto and Gab Villacin, defender Jovan Marfiga, winger Mikio Umilin and forwards Shanden Vergara and Xavi Zubiri have had big moments in their first year in the UAAP for the Green and White.
Zubiri and Vergara, in particular, scored the goals that led La Salle to this part of the season. Zubiri first struck late against the FEU Tamaraws to book a ticket in the Final Four; meanwhile, Vergara scored the winner against UP to seal a place in the finals.
“Everyone is equal.
“No one is bigger than the team. Everyone contributed and every player is important. So each one of us contributed and we reached this final. We do not take this for granted. It’s a great feeling that we’re in the finals,” said Vergara.
In the first half, it was Marfiga who scored the opener for La Salle. To witness two newcomers in the seniors level score decisive goals in the Final Four against UP was incredible.
“Actually, it’s not only Shanden,” said La Salle coach Alvin Ocampo. “It’s about the whole rookie cast that entered the team this year. They contributed a lot. They played like they’re not rookies. Remember ‘pag rookies, wala pang sungay kaya mas madaling i-control.
“Mas madali yung pagbigay ng instruction, mas nakikinig sila.”
For Vergara, La Salle’s resurgence this year is all down to their successful pre-season. “We prepared for this season. Yung Ang Liga, ginawa namin yung preparation para dito kasi UAAP yung target namin. So ayun, nakuha namin yung pangako namin to reach the finals. Hindi lang yung finals yung gusto namin.
“Gusto namin manalo last game para sa seniors.
“Hard work really pays off. If you continue to work hard, you will get the results. I’m very proud of my teammates, myself, the coaches, everyone who supported us,” he added.
With the success of Vergara’s batch this season, Ocampo then promised there will be new players down the line who will build on this breakthrough campaign.
“You can see already what’s in store for La Salle in the coming years. We prepared for this year. We also prepared for the coming years – we expect a lot of new faces in the coming years,” added the former national team player.
However, there is still one game left before the next season can truly start.
“It’s been a long time na yung La Salle hindi pa nakanalo ng championship. We want the Lasallian community to be proud, to continue to support us, and kailangan namin kunin ‘tong championship since we’re in the Finals na.”
After 15 matches this year, it is safe to say that the kids are alright in La Salle. But they don’t think of themselves as rookies anymore.
They have matured to the point that bringing the elusive championship back to Taft Avenue is all that matters now.
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