UAAP 81 Football: With window closing on a post-season berth, UE hopes to finally crack the Final Four
Santino Honasan on Feb 21, 2019 03:59 PM
"Yun yung target talaga, makapasok sa final four, and if mabigyan kami ng chance, we’ll take the championship." - UE head coach Fitch Florence Peter Arboleda
University of the East came painfully close to finally ending their Final Four drought last season.
And by painfully close, we're talking one point.
Still, Season 80 was definitely a bright spot in the UE men's football program, finishing in fifth after years of languishing in the bottom of the standings.
Now, the Red Warriors are once again in the hunt for a playoff berth, and they're hoping to feed off their momentum from last season.
UE's opening day matchup didn't go as they would have liked, losing 4-1 to Far Eastern University, but they did a masterful job of bouncing back, taking advantage of a short-handed Ateneo de Manila side to win, 1-0, Thursday.
With the win, UE joins UST and FEU as the only teams to come away with three points so far, and that's exactly what they want: to be at pace with the league's top teams this season.
"Sobrang importante para hindi kami malayo dun sa [ibang teams], tapos yung target namin, honestly, pumasok sa Final Four," said third-year UE head coach Fitch Florence Peter Arboleda.
It was also an important win in terms of re-instilling in the players a sense of confidence, especially since the win came against a tough contender in Ateneo.
"Sobrang happy lang ako sa performance nung mga bata ko. Still, sobrang lakas ng Ateneo, ako na nagsasabi sa inyo, hindi ko siya [tine-take lightly], sobrang lucky lang kami na nakuha namin yung game, regardless dun sa ibang attempts namin na malas lang siguro, we had four attempts na hindi talaga pumasok."
Since the Arboleda Era began in UE, they have made good on their promise of improving every season with last year marking the biggest.
From seventh back in UAAP Season 79, UE, as mentioned earlier, came within a point of making the final four. This season, Arboleda hopes to be able to finally lead his wards to the semis.
"Yung target naman namin every season is umangat, medyo heartbroken ako last year pero sabi ko hindi pa siguro namin time," Arboleda stated. "Baka this season, kasi umangat naman kami from seventh, naging fifth. By this season, yun nga, gusto talaga namin umangat."
This yea likerly represents the best chance for the UE Men's Football Program to make the post season, especially with nine players graduating at the end of the season.
"Honestly, oo, kasi I have nine graduating students, sabi ko sa kanila wala tayong ibang gagawin, kasi pag this season wala, tapos. Mamamatay kami for next season, knowing yung UE kasi, hindi nakakakuha ng maayos na recruit. I’ll be having a hard time na naman na magproduce ng magandang mga player."
"Talagang best chance na ito kasi siyam wala for next year, so yun yung pinag-hahandaan ko," Arboleda added.
With the window slowly closing for Arboleda and the Red Warriors, a spot in the final four, and maybe even a championship, feels like a mandatory goal at the end of the season.
"Yun yung target talaga, makapasok sa final four, and if mabigyan kami ng chance, we’ll take the championship."