MERYLL LEDESMA & INNA PALACIOS
OF THE DLSU’S WOMEN’S CHAMPION FOOTBALL TEAM
PERSEVERANCE, hard work, determination, and teamwork, are all necessary skills in order to become champions and none can better attest to the efficacy of this formula than De La Salle University’s very own women’s football team as they snagged the championship title of UAAP Season 79.
Having faced off against the University of Santo Tomas, this formidable team of determined ladies brought home the trophy back to Taft Avenue with an impressive score of 3-1 last May at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. Coached by the legendary Hans Peter Smit, these girls gave it their all throughout the entire UAAP women’s football season and have shown that they have what it takes to be victors.
It didn’t start out easy though; coming from their loss during season 78, these young ladies were hungry to win and would take their devastating loss into the fire that would spur them on throughout this season.
“We were devastated but it just made victory sweeter. We worked harder than ever. It was our fuel and it kept us going up to this day.” Inna Palacios, their goalkeeper and team co-captain, had mentioned as she recounted what drove her team coming into season 79.
Learning from their mistakes, these ladies worked hard with coach Hans; focusing more on their plays and fitness with the ball. They worked extremely hard during their training; starting earlier in the year with everyone committed to ensuring that last season’s loss would never happen again. Pushing themselves to the limit while making sure they took care of themselves, these girl’s made no excuse or backed down from the challenge of become champions this time around. If anything, their collective drive made them more cohesive as a unit; knowing that each one of them wanted this as badly as the other. It is this unity that spurned them on this season, as they looked out for each other both on and off the field.
“Outside the field, my teammates are my family. I go to them when I need something. I know that they will go out of their way if I need their help. We all know each other and we share what we have so I think that what makes it easy for us to play all together inside the field.” Meryll Ledesma, the team’s co-captain along with Palacios, had recounted.
It is this sense of family that helped them go through their training process and the games to come as they put their faith in their coaches’ direction and process. There was no room for error this time round, as they swept through the entire season, undefeated. They had only one goal and one goal in mind; to bring the title back to their alma mater.
“We expected to get the championship. It was really all or nothing for us. We never took our eyes off that goal since the loss in season 78.” Palacios had stated as she explained their expectations coming into this season.
Tensions were high during their last game as their opponents hit them hard and fast, but the memory of their bitter defeat last year was the rallying cry the team needed to push them further. It wasn’t until the 85th minute mark that their win was in reach as Irish navaja made a pass to Sara Castañeda which would inevitably give them their one goal lead. Then right before the game ended, Inna Palacios secured their victory with a penalty kick that drew the game to a close with a 3-1 score. Emotions soared as this high stakes game saw the De La Salle women’s football team crowned as the champions for season 79.
Ledesma retold what it was like hearing the final whistle; with tears falling and heart heavy knowing that this was her last UAAP game. “Those moments were priceless. A game that I will forever remember as an athlete representing La Salle.”
A bitter sweet victory for both Palacios and Ledesma as they will be graduating this year, they hope that this experience shall serve as reminder and a lesson for the team to always push themselves and work harder with each game. They have also expressed their optimism and hope that this win will alleviate the status of women’s football within the La Sallian community.
“I also hope those stereotypes about girls playing a rough sport and that guys are better will die down because these girls can play great football and they could go see it themselves.” Palacios had expressed when asked what she thought this win could mean for women’s football in La Salle.
As for the entire athletic community of DLSU, both Palacios and Ledesma have similar views on the subject. A student-athlete’s life is, as Palacios stated, “never easy”. It is a balancing act between playing for a sport you love and studying for the future you hope to achieve. And because of that student-athletes experience challenges completely unique to them and require not only the support from their friends and family but also of the La Sallian community and each other.
As one university and school, DLSU needs to come together and support all their athletes big or small since they all represent one La Salle. That is why, even though they are official named the DLSU “Lady Booters”, they believe that their team and all athletes in La Salle deserve to be called a Green Archer because in the end every single one of them is fighting for the same green and white and at their very core, an Archer.