UAAP 78 Menís Football Preview: Last seasonís Final Four looking to return to the top
ABS-CBN Sports on Feb 06, 2016 01:44 PM
Will we be seeing these guys back in the Final Four of UAAP Season 78?
The UAAP Season 78 Men’s football tournament begins Sunday, February 7th, with a huge opening day schedule that features rematches of last season’s Final Four fixtures, as defending champions FEU meet UP, while Ateneo takes on rivals DLSU.
Before the season kicks off though, let’s take a quick look into the eight squads that will be battling it out for the Season 78 Men’s Football crown.
FAR EASTERN UNIVERSITY: Charging Towards a Dynasty
Last season, the FEU Tamaraws had arguably the strongest offensive trio in the league, with Eric Giganto, Arnel Amita, and Jhan Melliza comprising three of the league’s top four goal scorers. This three-headed dragon of goal scoring, along with the veteran leadership of former MVP Paolo Bugas was more than enough to send the Tamaraws to their second straight men’s crown.
“For this season, it’s all about defending the title,” Bugas told ABS-CBN Sports. “Gagawin namin yung best namin para ipakita sa kanila kung ano yung pakiramdam ng pagiging defending champions.”
This season though, things might be a little different. The defending champions will be heading into Season 78 with two of their main guns gone from the lineup.
Last season’s fourth-leading scorer and Finals MVP Jhan Melliza has already graduated, while just last week, the Diliman-based squad suffered a big blow as “Nano” Amita suffered damage to his ACL and lateral meniscus, rendering him unable to suit up for Season 78, as confirmed by Bugas himself.
Still, the Tamaraws are no less contenders, especially last season’s strongest offensive weapon in Giganto, and a healthy Bugas, who has been busy in the offseason with international stints in with the Azkals, the U-23 squad and with club team Global FC.
For Bugas and the rest of the green-and-gold booters, it’s all about another title. Can they snag a three-peat? We’ll find out soon enough.
DE LA SALLE UNIVERSITY: Repeating History
The DLSU Green Archers had a quietly dominant run last season. Finishing as the only unbeaten squad and nabbing the top seed after elminations, DLSU was fueled by the sting of always coming up short. Unfortunately for the Green booters, they would once again feel that sting, as they fell to FEU in a final match that is no doubt a classic. DLSU would finish as runners-up, their best finish since Season 68.
In their final huddle for Season 77, graduating Matt Nierras emotionally told those who would be coming back for Season 78 to remember the pain of coming up short and use it as motivation.
This year, DLSU gets to start anew and hunt once again for the title that has eluded them since UAAP Season 60, and one of the new faces to watch out for is rookie Mikel Maniquis, who believes he and his fellow freshmen are more than ready to step up in place of graduates Nierras, Nathan Alquiros, and Gio Diamante.
“With Coach Hans, his system, he lets his players learn a lot of different positions, so it’s as easy as being able to plug this player in that position, plug this other player in that position,” Maniquis told ABS-CBN Sports. “Nate, Gio, Matt, they were all such important players to the team last year, but I think the players this year can do as well, if not better.”
Returning for the green-and-white will be their leading scorer last season and semifinals hero Gelo Diamante as well as key guys in Gerald Layumas, Sabin Bustamante and Christian Zubiri.
UNIVERSITY of the PHILIPPINES and ATENEO DE MANILA: Former Kings Looking to Return to the Throne
In the last five UAAP seasons, University of the Philippines appeared in the finals four straight times, taking home titles in two consecutive years. Last season’s third-place finish was their worst since Season 72, and their worst in the Jinggoy Valmayor era.
Season 78 however, will be their first season without their star striker, who finsihed his UAAP career last year. Taking the reigns will as team captain will be Daniel Gadia, while Season 77’s best defender Ian Clarino will also be back for the Maroon booters.
According to Clarino, the Maroons will be boasting a younger core, with rookies in almost every position.
“Gusto talaga namin makuha ‘to, kasi iniisip na lang namin yung pagod na pinagdaanan namin for the last few years, and gagawin naming motivation yung talo namin last year (sa FEU).” Clarino told ABS-CBN Sports.
One more source of motivation for the Maroons will be Rogie Maglinas, a former UP booter who succumbed to Cancer in early February. Even before Rogie’s passing, Clarino claimed that they will be dedicating every game this season to their brother and teammate.
“Lahat ng laban namin, para sa kanya. Lahat ng mga games namin, i-ooffer namin para sa kanya.”
Just three years ago, the Ateneo De Manila Blue Booters hoisted the UAAP Men’s football crown, taking down powerhouse UP in the Season 75 finals. Then a year later, Ateneo saw themselves at the bottom of the pile, finishing seventh in Season 76.
In Season 77 however, the Katipunan-based squad soared once more, at one point holding on to the top spot of the standings and proving that they were indeed contenders. With team captain Mikko Mabanag leading the charge and former Rookie of the Year Carlo Liay returning to the lineup, Ateneo clinched a Final Four spot but were ousted by rivals DLSU in the semis.
According to Mabanag, the exit became more of a positive for the team, rather than a negative.
“The outlook of the team right now is very positive...loss last year has become a learning experience because if you look at the lineup, we’re full of sophomores, so last year punong-puno kami ng rookies. These sophomores have stepped up a lot, yung game nila from last year, umangat,” Mabanag told ABS-CBN Sports. “Hindi siya naging painful for us, it became a learning experience for the team.
Mabanag, Liay, and Season 77 Rookie of the Year Julian Roxas will be back in blue and white, and will be looking to once again bring the Eagles back to the promised land of UAAP Men’s Football.