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La Salle eyes return to final in KO semis match against Ateneo

By Dugout Philippines

MANILA--De La Salle shoots for its second straight Finals appearance against Ateneo on Thursday in the UAAP Season 78 men's football tournament at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

In a rematch of last season's semifinals, the second-ranked Green Archers are determined to make it all the way this year, but they have to survive past the No. 3 Blue Eagles first.

Kickoff is at 5 p.m.

Elimination round topnotcher University of the Philippines battles No. 4 University of Santo Tomas in the other semis pairing at 3 p.m.

Winners of the knockout semis will progress to the one-game championship match set on March 4 also at the Malate venue.

De La Salle's drive for the elusive title which has eluded them for the past 17 years after Far Eastern University's two-year reign has abruptly put to an end.

The last year's pain still lingers for the Archers, who after topping the eliminations and beating the Blue Eagles in the Final Four have suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Tamaraws in the title match which went into extra time.

"We will see what happens. One game at a time," said De La Salle coach Hans Smit, very cautious on his side's chances this year.

Greggy Yang has been solid on offense for the Archers, while keeper Paeng de Guzman is also delivering the goods in manning the post.

Rookie Jarvey Gayoso, who will share the Best Goalscorer award with National University's Paolo Salenga, will banner Ateneo's attack as the Katipunan-based booters try to make a return stint to the championship round after a two-year absence.

"It's more exciting competition right now because of the youth," said Smit, who is currently the longest-tenured coach in the league. "It's better than last year. It's better the previous years."

This can also be said for the Fighting Maroons, whose rookie-laden core has brought them on the top of the league table with 30 points.

Veterans Vince Aguilar, Daniel Gadia, Feb Baya, rookie King Mayagi and goalie Ace Villanueva will be the vital cogs for UP, which is seeking to regain the crown it won in 2013.

After drawing 3-3 to the Growling Tigers at the start of second round, the Maroons tallied six consecutive clean sheets which got them on top.

Ronald Batisla-Ong, who had a successful comeback after a one-year absence, will lead the way for UST.

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