UAAP Season 81 football: Can UP make it two in a row?
UAAP MEN’S FOOTBALL GAME SCHEDULE
February 17, FEU Diliman
9 am – NU vs Adamson
1 pm – La Salle vs UST
3 pm – FEU vs UE
February 21, Moro Lorenzo Field
9 am – Adamson vs UST
1 pm – UE vs Ateneo
UAAP Season 81 football preview, Part 2
MANILA, Philippines – In Part 1 we looked at Adamson, Ateneo, DLSU and UE. Now let's examine the rest of a stacked lineup of UAAP football teams this season.
Far Eastern University
Bo Bae Park, the Tams' Korean coach, has suffered a blow to his campaign with the exit of speedy wide attacker Rico Andes.
But stepping into the breech is rookie sensation Chester Gio Pabualan. The Bukidnon deadball specialist scored from 30 yards out in the UAAP juniors final last year, and against Indonesia from a similar distance in a U19 international. As early as now, he is a Rookie of the Year favorite even before a ball is kicked.
Pabualan may find competition for that award from his own team. Martini Rey is likely to leave defenders both shaken and stirred. The Barotacnon is very gifted. Like Rey and Pabualan, rookie defender Viejay Frigillano also played with the U19 NT last year.
He will need help, and veteran leadership from John Renz Saldivar and Tin-Tin Salilig. With defender Audie Menzi and mid Arnel Amita graduating and turning pro, it will be their time to lead the pack.
Alex Rayos, who returned last year from a long spell with injury, will need to keep on finding the back of the net.
The Bulldogs look to rebound from a disappointing 2018 when they once again failed to crash the Final Four party.
Coach Mari Aberasturi will rely on a veteran backline composed of skipper Ross Lee Lawagan and Eddie Alivio. They will hope to shield Chris Perocho in goal.
Going forward NU will feature a pair of rookie forwards, Joshua Broce and Ivan Ouano. Both come from National's high school program. Broce hails from San Carlos City while Ouano is from Cebu.
Jekar Sullano is NU's left winger. The Ilonggo is nearing the end of his collegiate career and needs a good season to impress pro scouts. The kid has bags of ability, scoring from near the center line in one match last season.
NU was close to a rare piece of silverware in the Unigames but fell to UP, 1-0, in the final. Nonetheless, it's an encouraging sign that this very well-supported team could spring a surprise this season.
Speaking of silverware, the NU juniors team is in the UAAP juniors final game against FEU. That match will be aired live on S+A on Thursday, February 21 at 3pm.
University of the Philippines
The champs are the provisional favorites, even though Fidel Tacardon, who won Rookie of the Year in Season 80, is out indefinitely due to injury.
Coach Anto Gonzales still has King Miyagi, Dan Saavedra, Miggy Clarino, and JB Borlongan in his squad, giving UP championship pedigree. Kyle Magdato, an opportunistic goalscorer, had his minutes limited last year because of injury. That may change this season.
UP has also plucked a trio of rookies from Diliman rival FEU. Nikko Caytor, Orlan Togores, and Vince Parpan, all from Far Eastern's high school team, have traded in gold and green for maroon. Caytor is a striker, the other two midfielders.
The big question mark for UP is defense. Both Ian Clarino and Javi Bonoan graduated. Gonzales will need to find other players to step in and continued the tradition of excellence in the back.
UP finished 4th in Ang Liga but won the Unigames, defeating NU 1-0 in the final. (They seem to always win by that score.)
The Maroons will not start their season until February 28, presumably because a bunch of their players, namely Ray Sanciangco, Miggy Clarino, Dan Saavedra, JB Borlongan, Christian Lapas, and Kyle Magdato are in the Philippine Under-22 team playing in the AFF U22 championship that also starts on February 17. Anto Gonzales is also coaching that squad.
UP will be in for a torrid season against souped up teams. But one suspects the road to UAAP glory still passes through Balara.
University of Santo Tomas
Marjo Allado's team came so close to breaking their own title drought last year, falling at the final hurdle, 1-0, to UP.
Allado believes that his largely intact team has a great chance to go all the way this season, stating that their maturity will be a big factor.
Marvin Bricenio and Jopridale Molino have moved on but forwards AJ Pasion, Steven Anotado, and Conrado Dimacali remain, as do Aljireh Fuchigami and Renz Gumban.
Keeper Zaldy Abraham was the UAAP's tallest goalie last year and his presence between the sticks gives the team confidence, especially combined with savvy centerback Ian de Castro in front of him.
Erich Orale and Glenn Ramos are two rookies from Cebu. Ramos was impressive in Ang Liga, showing tremendous vision and passing touch from the middle of the park. Ramos' father, Glen, is a well-regarded coach in the Queen City, so the younger Ramos has the game in his blood.
UST has lost its last 3 men's finals. Could this be the year history turns for the Tigers?
UAAP Season 81 women's football regular season will be played in its entirety at the brand new Circulo Verde pitch in Pasig. It's a natural surface that should be a treat for the best lady footballers in the land. Play begins on March 2.
DLSU, the two-time defending champs, are the favorites. Hans Smit's team also won the PFF Women's League back-to-back. Irish Navaja and Kyra Dimaandal are still playing and Sara Castañeda, who took a leave of absence last year to play for the senior women's team, is returning to once again terrorize opposing defenders.
Anicka, Sara's sister, is recuperating from an ACL injury as is Christine Duran. Tashka Lacson continues in goal.
But the Lady Archers ignore UST at their own peril. The Tigresses lost the last two UAAP women's finals in heartbreaking fashion. But Aging Rubio, the coach, is not too bothered.
“My team is intact and the rookies are strong and talented,” says Rubio.
Veterans Shelah Cadag, Ivy Lopez, Charissa Lemoran, and goalie Nicole Reyes are all quality. Cadag was a serial goalscorer in international play for the Philippine women's team last year.
Rubio has also brought in rookies like Mika Punzalan, a midfielder from Lipa; Cecile Deita a midfielder from Iloilo; Lalaine Durano, a forward from Rizal; and Ryanrule Dahil Dahil, a defender from San Carlos.
Ateneo cannot be counted out. Senior national team player Martie Bautista brings plenty to the Lady Eagles. She will be joined by some top rookie recruits, like striker Tea Roxas from Assumption, Davaoeña Bea De Luna and DLSZ's Joanna Almeda.
Roxas has the bloodline. Her dad Randy Roxas played for the national team and cousin Julian is in the Ateneo men's team.
FEU has reason to feel optimistic. Coah Let Dimzon will lean on veterans Jovelle Sudaria, Roselle Lecera, Zhyrelle Belluga, Portia Acibar and Hannah Faith Pachejo to pressure the top teams, while Masbateña striker Joyce Onrubia is the big freshman addition. The Lady Tams have been scrimmaging with male teams to toughen up.
Dimzon says they have not lost any players due to injury or graduation.
UP's women's team struggled last season, finishing 5th, but this year coach Steph Permanes is looking to bounce back.
Defender Cassandra Alleje and mid Eloisa Fagsao are two of 5 remnants of the championship team from 3 seasons ago.
Three veterans are also fully back after sustaining ACL injuries. Keeper Nic Adlawan, striker Mary Rose Obra, and Sophie Dungca.
Abby Dumadao is the pick of the UP rookies. The forward from Assumption Antipolo is described by Permanes as a good finisher who works hard and is very aggressive.
Follow Bob on Twitter @PassionateFanPH. – Rappler.com