Goalkeeper Inna Palacios and defender Angge Metillo were playing their final game in the UAAP when they helped the De La Salle University win their first championship in the league since Season 72. It was the sweetest of exits for both graduating students, as they had changed their fortunes in the final.
The occasion is no stranger to them; in their rookie season, they introduced themselves to the UAAP with a second-place finish, having been beaten by the Far Eastern University. Then last season, Palacios and Metillo featured heavily again when La Salle returned to the final. Unfortunately, luck wasn’t on their side when the University of the Philippines edged past them. Back again this time around, they made sure that they wouldn’t be leaving the way they started.
For them to win it, Palacios knew that giving anything less than 100 percent simply wouldn’t cut it.
“Lahat na ng pinagpaguran mo ilalagay mo na rito. I don’t think any more tactical or skill can be added. It really boils down to whoever wants it more. This game will always go to the team who want it more than the other,” the 23 year-old goalkeeper declared.
Indeed, La Salle’s desire to win was manifested by her performance in the game. A steady presence in the back ever since she started playing for the Lady Booters from Taft Avenue, Palacios met all but one shot from the University of Santo Tomas, to put her team in a good position. The experienced custodian was unlucky not to cap off her illustrious career with a clean sheet after Hazel Lustan found a way past her on the counter attack.
Not surprised, the four-time best goalkeeper in the league conceded that dealing with opponents’ speed on the break has been one of the few deficiencies they had as a team.
“It’s always going to be the transition attacks that go against us. Siyempre, mabilis ‘yung mga kalaban so nabibigla ‘yung depensa. Yun yung struggle namin. Almost all the goals that go against us were from counter attacks,” Palacios pointed out.
Most, if not all, of the UST Lady Booters’ attacks were generated on the breakaway, therefore testing the resilience of the La Salle back row. When UST equalized, Metillo had been marking Lustan’s run, before a clever move from the Thomasian midfielder took the Season 79 best defender out of the way. It was the only time in the game that the fifth year defensive stalwart was totally breached, a truly remarkable feat considering that she wasn’t really a defender to begin with.
Metillo had initially played as a striker. After the graduation of former skipper Adrianne Yñiguez,the veteran Sports Management major was tasked to be the team’s sweeper. At first, the Negrense admitted that she hadn’t been too comfortable but after all that has happened, she is grateful for it.
“Laking pasasalamat ko kay coach [Hans Smit] kasi pinaintindi niya sa akin kung ano yung role ko kasi sobrang laki ng responsibility ko kasi last man. Para rin siyang striker lang din, pero striker yung binabantayan,” she went on to say.
Regarding working with Metillo, Palacios shared that her transition was made easy by familiarity with each other.
“We know how we play so kung anong position na bigay sa amin no coach, we’re just gonna accept it. We’re just going to adjust on ourselves,” the CSA-Makati alumna spoke of.
From the same batch, the two channeled their chemistry to work wonders en route to delivering a much-awaited championship trophy.
Coming off a heartbreaking defeat to the University of the Philippines Maroons last season made the team stronger according to Metillo, who cited how the setback has brought them together like never before.
“Mas naging intact kami ngayon. Mas maraming communication. Mas nag-bo-bonding kami as a team and as a group talaga,” she elaborated.
And if they were eager to avoid last year’s result this year, the Lady Archers are now surely targeting to replicate this year’s success in the coming years. No longer involved, Palacios trusts her teammates’ abilities to reach greater heights in the seasons to come.
“We never stopped pushing each other, we never gave up… We’d always say that with the right attitude, you’ll go far. It’s up to them. I know they have it in them and I know that they can spread it throughout the team,” the national team first choice goalkeeper concluded in her final interview as a UAAP player.