by Marisse Gabrielle Panaligan
The Ateneo de Manila University Blue Booters ended its seven-year title drought and dashed the Fighting Maroons’ dream of a three-peat by winning the men’s football championship trophy of the University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Sunday at the Ateneo pitch.
The Blue Booters bested the University of the Philippines in the penalty shootout of finals Game 2, 4-2, and remained as the only team to pull off a three-peat in the league.
The Maroons tried to rally late in the extension despite missing key players Albert Yatco and Michael Simms, who both went down due to injuries, but veteran striker Jinggoy Valmayor’s shot flew above the crossbar.
The game then went into the penalties after both teams failed to convert scoring chances.
UP missed their first two tries as Gabe Mendoza kicked the ball way off the post, while Ateneo goalkeeper Nick O’donnell thwarted Raymark Fernandez’ attempt.
Eric Figueroa, Valentino Calvo, and Michael Mabanag all made clean shots past Season 74’s best goalkeeper Tyrone Caballes and instantly shifted the momentum into Ateneo’s favor.
Valmayor and rookie Fe Baya kept UP into the game after easily finding the back of the net, but goalkeeper-turned-striker Yu Maruyama once again struck the final dagger and handed Ateneo its sixth championship.
Ateneo took four of the seven special awards. O’Donnell was hailed both as the Most Valuable Player and Best Goalkeeper of the tournament, while Carlo Liay and Mabanag bagged the Rookie of the Year and the Best Midfielder titles.
Meanwhile, Jesus Melliza from second runner-up Far Eastern University was crowned as the Best Striker. The powerhouse team also received the Fair Play award.
De La Salle University’s Gregory Yang took the Best Defender award to complete the list.