UAAP Season 81 Team Preview: DLSU Lady Archers

DLSU Lady Archers in Season 80: 3-11 (7th Place)

Holdovers: Khate Castillo, Kat Nunez, Joe Arciga, Charmaine Torres, Vea Malarde, Bernice Paraiso, Marga Jimenez, Lauryn Del Campo

Additions: Camille Claro, Bennette Revillosa, Angel Quingco, Rhea Castillo, Rossini Espinas, Bettina Binaohan, Jel Jajurie

Departures: Marga Dagdagan, Chay Vergara, Angel Figueroa, Charlene Javier, Jamie Roxas, Noreen Gabriana

In Season 70, the De La Salle University (DLSU) Lady Archers hit their lowest finish in the UAAP Women’s Basketball Tournament. Meanwhile, their head coach Pocholo Villanueva was still playing for the DLSU Men’s Basketball Team and was co-Finals MVP as the Green Archers won the UAAP Men’s Basketball Championship. The Lady Archers, since then, became a permanent fixture in the Top 4, making the semifinals in each of the succeeding seasons except for Season 71, where they finished with fifth place.

Roughly a decade later, Villanueva and his team found themselves in an unfamiliar territory. Entering Season 80 eager to bounce back from their Finals loss against the NU Lady Bulldogs, the Lady Archers instead saw their Season 79 eliminations win-loss record of 11-3 reversed as they only won three games and failed to advance to the semifinals.

They opened their campaign with three straight defeats versus FEU, NU, and Adamson. Then, they clinched their first win at the expense of UP. However, the Taft-based squad again lost back-to-back against UST and UE. They ended the first round of eliminations with a victory against their arch-rivals Ateneo for a 2-5 slate. Nightmare happened in the second round, though, as the Lady Archers suffered six losses in a row. Before winning their final game of the season against UP, they were already out of contention for the Final Four.

Villanueva rued injuries that struck all but one of his starters. He expressed, “It was a year of injuries. We had four major injuries last year, and it was a big adjustment since all four injured players were my starters.” Top guns Camille Claro, Bennette Revillosa, Susan Ali Mohamed El Hadad, and Joe Arciga all suffered injuries that reduced them to mere observers in Season 80.

“We had less players. The rotation was short,” he said. “We can play defense, but the problem was we cannot score the basketball,” added the Lady Archers’ mentor.

Claro echoed her coach’s sentiments, while also mentioning that the squad struggled since the veterans were not on the court. As a result, heavy minutes were played by then rookies Bernice Paraiso, Lauryn Del Campo, and Marga Jimenez. “Hirap sila last year kasi wala yung mga veterans,” she said.

Villanueva, nonetheless, was quick to see the silver lining as Paraiso, Del Campo, and Jimenez are quickly maturing in terms of learning experience entering their sophomore year. The former Green Archer observed that they matured and developed quicker compared to last year. “They gained a lot of experience because they played a lot of minutes even though they were rookies,” he noted.

In Season 81, meanwhile, the Lady Archers will be bannering a mix of young guns and veterans anchored by Claro, Revillosa, and Arciga. Helping them are rookies Rhea Castillo, Rossini Espinas, Bettina Binaohan, and Jel Jajurie.

Despite not playing last season, Villanueva, who had his injured players alongside him in the La Salle benches during their games, believes that his returning veterans will surely be able to apply everything that they have observed from the sidelines. He stated, “It was also a learning experience for them (injured players), looking from the outside what they could have done during games.” The former UAAP Champion declared that this time is their chance to do it.

Villanueva is also convinced that his incoming sophomore players, who as mentioned earlier took a lot of playing time in just their rookie year, will have breakout seasons of their own. “I think they’re going to have a better season—gaining a lot of experience from last season,” he claimed. Villanueva also added, “I’m expecting more from them.”

As Season 80 was a “year of injuries”, Villanueva’s priority from day one of the team’s off-season was keeping the team injury-free. He imparted that they have been doing yoga and ice baths to keep the ladies conditioned for the games. “The first thing that we adjusted this season was our recovery. We’ve been doing yoga and ice baths to keep each and everyone healthy.”

Unfortunately, with just a week before their first game of the season, the Lady Archers took a huge blow as incoming rookie and 3×3 standout Lee Sario tore her ankle. She is set to undergo a surgery and thus was withdrawn from the Season 81 lineup. Moreover, Charmaine Torres suffered an MCL injury, which will keep her from playing for a few more days.

“It was an unfortunate incident,” lamented Villanueva. But he quickly stressed that the team is in good shape. “Everything is right on track,” according to him. As for the remaining Lady Archers, the main concern still is keeping everyone injury-free throughout the campaign.

The Lady Archers core for this season will mostly comprise of players who were also part of their first runner-up finish a couple of years ago, and Villanueva does not see the need for any major adjustment in terms of the system that they are currently running. He expressed, “On our offensive and defensive systems, it’s still the same. We’ll still be pressuring the whole 40 minutes. We’ll still be running the ball every time.”

For Claro who was a non-factor in her team’s forgettable campaign, their 3-11 record should be enough motivation for them to play a lot harder this season. “We always remember yung 3-11 standing last year. Every practice, nire-remind kami ni coach about that. Ayaw na naming mangyari ulit.” Aside from that, playing her final year in the UAAP is an added motivation for her, who was a rookie when they won the Season 76 title.

The pint-size playmaker has a lot of reasons to be confident with her team’s chances this season despite losing some veterans in former team captain Marga Dagdagan, Pau Vela, Kathy Gonzales, and Chay Vergara, respectively. “Medyo malaki yung team namin ngayon compared to last year. Puro veterans din maglalaro,” she cited.

“Nag-rehab kami for almost one year so we are stronger this season,” Claro added.

Their rookies are also quick to adapt to the system they are running.

Eager this time to return to their familiar territory, Villanueva alerts the Lady Archers to take it one game at a time. “Our mindset is what happened last year will not happen again.” He said that the team’s approach is to take it one game at a time. “Of course our number one goal is to win the Championship,” he quickly added.

On the other hand, Claro repeated her coach’s ideas and added, “Wag dapat kabahan. Wag maging sobrang eager kasi baka mawala sa laro.”

Villanueva vowed that they will represent the Green and White with pride and compete with a heart every game. Meanwhile, Claro boldly claimed that the Lady Archers are returning to their familiar territory this season.

La Salle will take on Adamson on Sunday, 11 AM at the Blue Eagle Gym. Coming off from a dismal campaign, Villanueva remains hopeful that they can start the season on the right note. Moreover, he hopes the team in the end can contribute to the University’s bid for a fourth UAAP General Championship. “Hopefully we get our first win on Sunday and get a good start.”

DLSU Lady Archers in Season 81:

AdU – September 9 (Sun), 11 AM, Blue Eagle Gym
UST – September 15 (Sat), 8 AM, Smart Araneta Coliseum
UE – September 19 (Wed), 10 AM, Mall of Asia Arena
NU – September 24 (Mon), 3 PM, Filoil Flying V Centre
FEU – September 30 (Sun), 10 AM, Mall of Asia Arena
UP – October 6 (Sat), 8 AM, Mall of Asia Arena
ADMU – October 10 (Wed), 9 AM, Blue Eagle Gym