The Ateneo de Manila Lady Blue Eagles led 2-1 at halftime in their opening day matchup against archrivals the De La Salle Lady Archers. But forty-five minutes later, it was the girls in Green and White celebrating on the pitch.
A stoppage time goal by La Sallian youngster Sara Castañeda broke the hearts of the Ateneo faithful at the McKinly Hill Stadium, launching a stealthy 92nd minute strike that whizzed past the arms of Ateneo keeper Marianne Caparros and into the net. Castañeda’s goal pushed La Salle to a 4-3 lead, robbing the Lady Eagles of the point the 3-3 draw would have given them.
But despite the loss, the Ateneans have their heads held high.
“They have better attacking now,” said head coach Robert Manlulo when asked to comment about signs of improvement in his team’s opening matchup. Coach Manlulo also praised his rookies’ performance in their first outing in the UAAP.
“Most of our rookies, as well as La Salle’s, are members of the national team. I think they played very well. As expected, they delivered,” related Manlulo, who just as well gave time to praise the opposing team’s newcomers.
“The rookies of La Salle and the rookies of Ateneo are mostly teammates on the national team. You saw a good performance from both of them.”
Manlulo, however, cited the need for more disciplined defending in their coming matches.
“Yan yung key namin. We have to be disciplined. We cannot give up easy possessions to the opponent. If we tighten on it (defense), then it will be a good game for me.”
Veteran Camille Rodriguez, who wore the captain’s band and scored two goals for her team, also has high hopes for the season despite dropping their first assignment.
“I say it’s a great start for the team. Even though we didn’t get the win, we were able to break into the tournament,” said the Atenean forward after the game. “We were also able to see what we can do.”
Like her coach, Rodriguez has much praise reserved for her rookie teammates.
“I could say that most of our rookies were nervous getting to their first UAAP game, but at the same time I can say that I am proud of them, because with that nervousness comes the excitement of playing.” Rodriguez mentioned how their rookies would relate to her the mixture of fear and excitement approaching their debut in the UAAP. “That game was a good preview to how they can perform in the rest of the tournament.”
The Lady Eagles will next face the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigresses on Feb 20.