It has been a long time since UP women’s football team made an appearance in the UAAP championship game. Having made it back to the final for the first time in 10 years, UP had the chance of winning their first title in the league. Yesterday, they fell short of breaking the drought with a 2-1 defeat to FEU, but all of it was taken positively.
“Considering there are a lot of first timers at this level I thought they showed good composure today,” said UP Coach, Anto Gonzales, who guided the team to a strong start this season. Highly adored and respected by his players, the young coach implemented a sound program to better prepare the team than in the previous year when his abrupt takeover led to a promising fourth place finish last season, where they picked up most of their points in the second round. “Pre-season with him has been a game changer. We worked really hard in the off-season to have a good foundation for this recent season. Our coaches are so motivating, and I’ve fallen back in love with soccer because of their coaching style, and it makes us all excited to go to training,” shared Kali Navea-Huff.
The sophomore winger also highlighted the importance of having Season 74 Rookie of the Year Cristina Delos Reyes and her sister Marie Navea-Huff in the team. The presence of the two players gelled well with everyone and reaching the Final proves that. Marie teamed up with mainstays Aira Agustin and Molly Manalansan at the central area of defense. In the same way, Delos Reyes is a genuine threat in the middle of the park as her touches more often than not find their way past opponents. It has led to the team amassing 18 points with 13 goals scored and eight conceded including those in the final, still the best record in the division. “Though the result wasn’t what we wanted, our main objective is a perfect effort and that’s what we gave this year,” Kali stated.
Marie, who watched from the sidelines while serving residency last year, was also happy to accomplish the team’s prime objective. “Compared to last season, I believe we’ve come a long way. We’ve just come more together as a team, to work for our one goal which was to reach this point and just have a good game and have fun as a team.”
The team will look to perform even better next season and with a young team gaining an experience at this stage, a lot may project their return to the final. Jermaine Choa Peck and Tin Mendoza are the only players in the roster who will no longer return for next season, meaning much of this season’s players are still with the team. Gonzales may be aware of that but will not definitely take anything lightly. “Of course we still need to fill in some spots and strengthen also our game-changers [bench]. We need to equip them very well. Hopefully we get some new players who can contribute for next season,” he declared. From a player’s point of view, Kali, the younger of two Huff sisters, will hope to continue where the team has left off in Season 77. “We still have a strong team next year and we’re looking forward to showing everyone that we never settle for less than a perfect effort,” she vowed.
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