In order to deal with the “brutal” schedule of the 2022 AFF Women’s Championship, coach Alen Stajcic made it a point to maximize his squad.
Because of this, goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel sat on the bench three times during the Filipinas’ seven-game campaign.
However, come the final four clash against Vietnam and the championship game against Thailand, she started two consecutive matches for the first time in the tournament.
She had an air of superiority and confidence around her and was a dominant presence in the Philippines’ penalty box. The 24-year-old stopper out of Laguna Beach, California only needed to perform routine stops most of the time because those in front of her were organized and remained compact.
“I mean, we’re all fine for our first-ever World Cup. Nothing would beat that feeling but getting to win a medal, a trophy on our home soil, there’s no feeling like it, it’s not comparable,” said McDaniel.
“We did it for our family, for our friends, and for you all, it’s such an incredible feeling; it’s very humbling. We’re so proud of ourselves.”
The Filipinas entered the knockout round of the tournament with doubts creeping in after a 1-0 loss to Thailand to end their Group A run. It was the only goal McDaniel gave up for the entire tournament.
It was a result that could have derailed everything, only for it to do the exact opposite.
“I mean it’s definitely a team effort. We all put our heads down together, we said ‘no more balls against, nothing at the back of our nets’. It’s gonna be nothing or everything, so we went for everything,” said the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee alumna.
“We didn’t let anyone come after us after that 1-0 defeat against Thailand. So it’s definitely a team effort; all of us put together: our coaching staff, the backline, our sixes. It was a great team effort.”
The Filipinas’ amazing annexation of the 2022 AFF Women’s Championship was the first time the Philippines became the last team standing in any AFF competition.
It truly was a special evening in Rizal Memorial, which hosted 8.257 fans. After a semifinal finish in the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup and a bronze medal in the 31st Southeast Asian Games, the time finally came for the Filipinas to strike gold.
The emotions felt from the elation from the victory will definitely live long in the memory.
“Everything, it’s so humbling. I think it just means more that we have to do it in front of our home crowd, in front of our families, and in front of everyone, and it’s very humbling, and we deserve it,” said McDaniel.
“We really wanted to bring it home for you guys, and bring us a trophy and a win. I think that really was our goal, and it was really exciting because of you all.”
Being part of the Filipinas’ renaissance, the 5-foot-8 goalkeeper has been a key part of the team’s rise in the international arena. The team has achieved so many milestones this year which only raises hopes and expectations each time they step on the pitch.
Despite the Filipinas’ current success, they all know that what they are doing now is only part of the preparations for the biggest tournament of their lives — the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
They will celebrate this historic victory but in the back of their heads, they are ready to get back to work.
“It was near to a hundred. I think that really this program has really turned around with the coaching staff, the girls, and everyone that comes in put their head down with their work ethic,” said McDaniel. “I think we put our heads down, we put our heads to something really, we really try and get there, and I think we really just climbed up that hill and lessened the gap between us, and those top 20, top 30 teams.
“Just showing them that we can compete, and we can get there. I think it’s just all uphill from this. It’s gonna be a tough climb until next July in Australia, New Zealand, but all we have to do is work, work, work; and we’ll get there to compete.”
McDaniel has another feather in her cap as a national team player. But just like she demonstrated in the championship run, she is ready to be called up anytime and play her best against the toughest opposition.