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UAAP Season 78 Women’s Football Starter Pack

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[nextpage title = “Opener”]
Written by Brian Tamayao and Lorenzo Del Carmen

The UAAP Season 78 Women’s Football Championship is set to commence this Weekend and just like last season, all schools in the event can realistically win it. Far Eastern University are primed to defend their title this season, but any of the four other teams are keen on taking the crown away from Morayta, where it has been for the past three years.

Standing in FEU’s way for a fourth straight title are four other teams, three of whom have been victims in each of their recent championship years. The most recent bridesmaids, the University of the Philippines, had played scintillating football for the majority of Season 77. Having topped the standings, UP were unfortunate not to enjoy the twice-to-beat incentive that their eventual conquerors had in Seasons 75 and 76. Still, The Lady Fighting Maroons gave the Tamaraws a run for their money in the final where they lost, 2-1.

Another team aspiring to stake a claim at the title are Season 76 runners-up University of Santo Tomas. They were depleted in Season 77 following the absences of several key players. Reinvigorated by the return of their veterans, UST definitely want to make up for last year’s uncharacteristic display, and nothing says that better than making it back to the final.

The third of FEU’s championship round victims is De La Salle University, a team that has a tradition of making the final year in, year out. The trend has currently been bucked, as the Lady Archers have missed the finals in three of the previous five seasons, after never missing one since the tournament began. With a matured core, the Lady Archers will be raring to take home a title that last came to Taft in Season 72.

Unlike their fellow contenders, the Lady Eagles have been unable to reach the final during FEU’s recent reign. Ateneo, however, finished third in each of the last three seasons wherein FEU won the championship. What kept Ateneo from entering the final was their inability to sustain positive results throughout the elimination round. Should they solve that problem, Ateneo are geared to climb greater heights.

A new season means everyone is on level footing. All teams have a good chance of clinching the coveted championship, so expect an even more exciting season than the previous one. Here is our guide for everyone who is keen to follow the action in this year’s UAAP Women’s Football.

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[nextpage title = “FEU”]

Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Women's Football Starter Pack News

What happened last season?

The Lady Tamaraws had been champions twice in a row entering Season 77, and that fact made everyone want to get a piece of them. They didn’t have the finest of beginnings, as they dropped their opening outing against UP. Nonetheless, the defeat had only awakened the competitive spirit of the girls from Morayta. FEU gained pace by bagging important narrow wins against the three other teams in the tournament. Coach Let Dimzon hadn’t liked how her team had been playing in the first round, so she was relieved when the team regained footing in the latter half of the season. FEU had crucially gone on a three-game unbeaten run to seal them a finals place in what had been a very open season. It seemed that her team peaked at the right time as the Lady Tamaraws marched on to their third straight championship.

Expectations for Season 78?

A few of players from the past three championship years may have departed, but it should not give anyone the reason to write off FEU. In their squad remain Daidai Dolino, Kimberly Cupal, Barbie Sobredo, Sharmine Siaotong, Jean Kadil, and Ina Araneta, who have all played huge roles in their recent success. They will look to these players to guide their younger teammates, who will replace the likes of the reliable Charmaine Fagaragan and Lou Amita. FEU will likely play similar to how they have played during their title-winning seasons. Dimzon prefers her team to dominate possession and use their searing pace to leave opponents behind. Still a dangerous team, FEU can once again impose themselves on the rest of the field, as long as they play the way they are instructed to.

Best finish?

Champions. They are the current dominating force and are poised to sustain the trend by overpowering the competition, something they have been doing since 2012. A sustained veteran core will have their sights on equalling the longest championship streak in UAAP women’s football.

Worst finish?

Third place. Arguably, FEU are frontrunners to make the final again due to their superiority in talent and experience. The finals should be their minimum, but it could take an unlikely bad run to set them back in the very short season.

Player to watch?

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Women's Football Starter Pack News

Daidai Dolino.

The captain faces bigger responsibility to marshall the back line as one of the integral components in FEU’s defense. The national team standout wowed spectators with her ability to contain opponents on defense and produce quality set pieces at the other end. In a team filled with highly-skilled individuals, the way she handles things both on and off the pitch will be magnified, for her leadership may say a lot about the direction of the three-peat champions in Season 78.

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[nextpage title = “UP”]

University of the Philippines Lady Maroons

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Women's Football Starter Pack News

What happened last season?

The Lady Maroons were definitely last season’s breakout team. Having finished strong in the season prior that, UP carried on with three straight wins to start Season 77. A loss to DLSU had been a reality check, but it did more good than harm as the season unraveled. They only lost twice after that, albeit both times against FEU. Despite missing out on the title, UP can take pride in the fact that they surpassed the expectations of many people by ending the elimination round as the team with the best record, most clean sheets kept, and most number of goals scored. A remarkable improvement indeed for a team that finished fourth in Season 76.

Expectations for Season 78?

Season 78 may turn out to be the year of UP Women’s Football. A more experienced team of Lady Maroons has what it takes to return to the finals, where anything can happen. They have a good set of players, playing in a system with which they feel comfortable, if last season’s performances are examined. UP have been one of the league’s most exciting teams, mainly due to their overflowing desire to attack. The deadly trio of Cristina delos Reyes, Kali Huff, and Mary Rose Obra will lead the UP frontline. Meanwhile, their defense cannot be underestimated, boasting the likes of Marie Huff, Molly Manalansan, and Nic Adlawan. Featuring a balanced squad this Season 78, UP look to be arguably the strongest challengers to FEU’s reign.

Best finish?

Champions. Clinching a maiden title wouldn’t be a farfetched outcome for UP, who will go into Season 78 hungrier than ever. No longer unfamiliar with the last dance, they will do to better than their Season 77 finish given the chance.

Worst finish?

Fourth place. It is hard to imagine these developing Lady Maroons finishing in the last two places. While fourth may be possible due to an inferior goal difference, the Maroons simply will not be the worst team with what appears to be their most formidable roster to date.

Player to watch?

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Women's Football Starter Pack News

Cristina de los Reyes.

The captain revitalized UP last season with her influential presence on and off the field. The midfielder is vital to making the Lady Maroons’ offense tick, often being involved in creating chances for the Diliman team. As they aim for a higher target this year, de los Reyes will be seen by many as UP’s driving force this season.

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[nextpage title = “Ateneo”]

Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Women's Football Starter Pack News

What happened last season?

Third place for the third straight year, Ateneo once again missed out on the finals. A poor run of results in the first half of the season set the Lady Eagles too far back that their vibrant second round run was only enough to merit them third place. It was the opposite of trends in previous seasons, wherein Ateneo had often gotten the bulk of their points in the first half of the season and crumbled in the latter half. Performance-wise, the Lady Eagles hadn’t played awful football throughout the season. They had amassed a valuable win against rivals DLSU, but unfortunate defeats to the three other teams couldn’t help their cause. If they can pick up a positive from last season, it’s that they did brilliantly to close out the season. Frustrated by a late equalizer against UP, Ateneo still impressed by collecting morale-boosting wins over Season 76 finalists FEU and UST to finish the season with bronze medals on their necks.

Expectation for Season 78?

For the young Lady Eagles, Season 78 may be a chance to learn from each opportunity they get. The youngest team this year, Ateneo still have the likes of Aina Martin, Kimberlee Jimenez, and Camille Rodriguez to show everyone else the way. Nearly half of the team are rookies, so not a lot may be expected of Ateneo. Yet the veterans’ experience, plus the newcomers’ brilliance, may finally create a winning formula that can propel them to the final. Underestimating Ateneo will be a mistake, as pre-season performances suggested that this is a determined team that can dazzle defences with their highly-coordinated movement. Overall, the Lady Eagles do not seem like a team built to make the final just yet, but learning fast may see them there well ahead of schedule.

Best finish?

Clinching an elusive finals appearance. It may come earlier than some would project, but the combination of a wide-open season and the drive of the ladies in Katipunan could give Ateneo the opportunity to grab a place in the finals.

Worst finish?

Last place. A rebuilding team may face some struggles along the way and a few bad results may spell in a disappointing season for Ateneo.

Player to watch?

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Women's Football Starter Pack News

Camille Rodriguez.

Rodriguez is arguably the go-to girl of Ateneo. How well she plays could potentially translate into results for the Lady Eagles. A midfielder who can play in the middle or out wide, Rodriguez has a decent amount of pace in her to baffle her markers. She can also deal damage with the way she distributes the ball, particularly because she has plenty of teammates who can trouble defences. If she emulates last year’s performances, Rodriguez could have a greater impact on how the Lady Eagles execute on the attack.

[/nextpage]
[nextpage title = “La Salle”]

De La Salle University Lady Archers

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Women's Football Starter Pack News

What happened last season?

Technically speaking, it was an improvement compared to Season 76. Two seasons ago, the Lady Archers finished last for the first time in the elimination round, with just five points won all season long. For Season 77, they earned three more points and finished a place higher in the standings. They actually had a good run in the first round, where they defeated their counterparts from University of the Philippines and University of Santo Tomas. However, it all went downhill in the second round where they were winless. It was an unfamiliar record, as La Salle had normally stepped up during the latter half of the previous seasons. At the end of the elimination round, they gained eight points, far a possible finals ticket.

Expectation for Season 78?

The past two seasons simply haven’t been good enough by the Lady Archers’ standards and they will no doubt want to do better once Season 78 starts. They have been in fine form in pre-season tournaments, terrorizing opponents by making plenty of chances, though finishing remains to be a concern in most of their games. With stellar performances in the off-season, DLSU finished first runners-up in the Philippine Football Federation Women’s Cup and clinched the Philippine University Games title. Expect momentum to be carried over as soon as the season kicks-off. Smit’s confidence of the girls reaching the finals is high enough for himself to declare that he would no longer coach the women’s team should they not reach the finals this year. True or not, it highlights the positive outlook the team has in this upcoming season.

Best finish?

Champions. Their pre-season form dictates that the Finals should be the bare minimum. Gaining some crucial wins should definitely jumpstart the potential of this hungry team.

Worst finish?

Third or fourth place; they should at least be knocking at the door for a Finals ticket. Anything less than that spells more trouble for what may be a declining DLSU women’s football program.

Player to watch?

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Women's Football Starter Pack News

Inna Palacios.

The starting goalkeeper for school and country, Palacios will have to not only aim to keep clean sheets but also lead from the back. She is a good goalkeeper, not only because of her saves, but with how she organizes her back four. Now in her fourth playing year, she is also one of the few players in the team who has experienced playing in the Finals. The Lady Archers’ defensive resilience will rely much on her.

[/nextpage]
[nextpage title = “UST”]

University of Santo Tomas Tigresses

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Women's Football Starter Pack News

What happened last season?

The Tigresses had a bad Season 77, just like their counterparts from the Growling Tigers. Both teams had to play a lot of young players, and for the Tigresses, it had fallen on forward Pearl Aguilar to carry the team. A general rule in team sports is that one player cannot carry the whole team. It showed, as they only won two games in the eliminations phase, one for each round. It was a poor showing, but a silver lining could be that the young players will be battle-hardened for Season 78.

Expectation for Season 78?

Simply put, the Tigresses should at the very least come close to vying for a place in the final. Although they have lost stalwarts Rara Luna and Pearl Aguilar, they are set to welcome back a bunch of key veterans, like Jennizel Cabalan, who have the winning pedigree. Chemistry might be an issue, so this year could be a bridge year for the Tigresses, who remain one of the league’s youngest teams. Progress must be shown, and the only way to do that is to finish in fourth place — at the very least — once Season 78 ends.

Best finish?

Third place. The young players might still need another season in the UAAP to roughen up as they learn alongside returning veterans.

Worst finish?

Same as Season 77, in fifth place. On paper, UST may take some positive results. Should things not go their way, they could easily struggle the most this season.

Player to watch?

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Women's Football Starter Pack News

Jennizel Cabalan.

The returning Tigress showed in pre-season how big of a factor she can be for the team. Perhaps the most experienced attacking player in the UST camp, Cabalan’s ability to help build her younger teammates’ confidence by deliver outstanding performances in front of goal should be kept an eye out for.

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[nextpage title = “Parting Shot”]

In what is the shortest event in all of UAAP collegiate action, each goal and each point earned matter a lot more than just a change in scoreboard or the standings. The marathon may be short, but it is still a long march where consistency will be pivotal to accomplishing the ultimate goal of capturing the UAAP Season 78 title. The FEU Lady Tamaraws are on a mission to keep their trophy, whilst the others are determined to take it away. The battle ensues on February 7.

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