Ateneo senior Carlo Liay hopes to start and end UAAP career with championship
THEN AND NOW. Carlo Liay was the rookie of the year back in Season 75. Now a senior in Season 79, he hopes to captain the Ateneo team back to a championship.
The last time that the Ateneo de Manila University men's football program hoisted a UAAP championship was back in UAAP Season 75.
Led by the likes of season MVP Nick O'Donnell, Val Calvo, and a sophomore Mikko Mabanag, Ateneo bested collegiate rivals De La Salle in the semifinals and then went on to take down then back-to-back champions University of the Philippines in two matches.
O'Donnell, Calvo, and Mabanag have all since left Katipunan, but one more member of that Season 75 championship team continues to represent the blue and white on the pitch.
Carlo Liay, who happened to be the league's Rookie of the Year back then, is on his last tour of duty with the Blue Eagles, and has captained Ateneo to the league's best record and a second-straight finals berth.
But it hasn't been a smooth ride for Liay and the Blue Eagles since winning the title four seasons ago. The following year, Ateneo dipped to seventh place following an exodus of key players, and Liay being sidelined due to an injury.
Season 77 saw the Blue Eagles barely make their return to the Final Four, only to be booted out by DLSU in the semis.
Last season however, would arguably be the most heartbreaking.
In Season 78, with Mabanag, Liay, and a rookie Jarvey Gayoso leading the campaign, Ateneo dispatched DLSU to set up a finals showdown with UP, similar to the path that they took in Season 75.
The end would be much different however, as UP demolished Ateneo in the Finals.
But all that's in the past now.
This season has been nothing short of magical for the Blue Eagles, and now more than ever, they have another shot at bringing men's football gold back to Katipunan.
"I wouldn't compare the two teams, this is a totally different team, it's a young team." Liay said when asked if he saw any similarities between the Season 75 championship team and this season's team.
One of the young guns back in Season 75, Liay believes that their current team now - that's made up of ten first-year players - has a lot of potential.
"We were also a young team back then, but we can still give more than the last team."
Among those ten rooks, guys like starting keeper AJ Arcilla, Enzo Ceniza, Sam Lim, Ryan Haosen, Jordan Jarvis, and William Grierson, have all proven themselves as key cogs to this Ateneo machine.
While Liay no doubt would love nothing more than for history to repeat itself, especially now in his final year in the UAAP, he hopes that they don't have to go to penalites this time around.
Ateneo's path to the title back in Season 75 was tedious to say the least, with all their games in the post-season, including the two finals wins, heading to penalty shootouts.
"I remember that year we ended up in penalty shootout, that is not the goal this year."
"We want to end it within the 90 minutes, so we have to work hard to do that." Liay added.
With former back-to-back champions FEU standing in between Ateneo and a return to glory, Liay and Ateneo will indeed have to work hard in the Finals.
Ateneo and FEU will battle for the UAAP Season 79 Men's Football crown on Sunday, May 7th, 3:00 PM at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
Catch the LIVE telecast on S+A channel 23, S+A HD channel 166, and livestreaming on sports.abs-cbn.com/livestream/uaap