MANILA, Philippines – For fans of UAAP volleyball, the sight of Remy Palma smiling and making eye contact with opposing players is nothing new.
The Far Eastern University (FEU) team captain is known for her "mind games," which not only unnerves her opponents, but also fires her up.
Palma is not choosy about whom she tries to psych out, too. While opposing middle blockers are her natural target, she has also tried to unleash her mind games on the other team's setters.
Last Saturday, against the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles, Palma turned her smirk and stare at Maddie Madayag, Bea de Leon, and Ana Gopico. Even as the match dragged on to a fifth set, she continued to engage the Ateneo players in conversation. She even talked to setter Jia Morado and continued eyeing Jhoana Maraguinot at the back row.
Unfortunately for Palma, she had no impact in the final stretches of the game. Stuck at the back row in the fifth set, the skipper had to watch as the Lady Eagles took a 10-5 lead in the fifth set, on their way to a 25-20, 25-22, 17-25, 21-25, 15-8 win.
"Nakakainis, kasi ayun na naman. Nangyari na naman 'yung tulad noong first round, na eager na eager ako makabalik. Isang ikot na lang, nasa harap na ako, tapos hindi na naman naibigay," Palma rued after the game.
While FEU was left to lick its wounds after yet another five-set defeat to Ateneo, the mutual respect between the two squads was evident. Palma even exchanged a hug with Morado, the Lady Eagles' captain, after the game, and later, Ateneo middle blocker De Leon expressed her respect for the FEU veteran as well.
"I think everybody's familiar with what she does on court, but I respect that about her," said De Leon, while also stressing that she was not in any way intimidated by Palma's "mind games."
"I think everybody has their own way of playing, and everyone has their own way of doing their thing, so I respect that," she added. "If it works for her, it works for her, 'di ba? Kanya-kanyang thing 'yan. But definitely I don't let myself get intimidated."
De Leon knows that if she lets herself get dragged into a psy-war with Palma, it will have an adverse effect on her game. "If you let her get in, oh you're dead. That's for sure naman," she said.
Palma, as she has done time and again, stressed that she has nothing personal against any of the Ateneo players.
"Wala naman akong pinipili," she said of her mind games. "Basta kung sino ang nasa harapan ko."
"Enjoy na enjoy lang ako sa ganoon," Palma explained. "Kina-kalma ko lang kasi 'yung sarili ko na sige, mag-enjoy ka, pero at the same time, naka-focus ka."
"'Yun ang mina-mindset ko sa sarili ko na basta makuha mo 'yung tempo ng laro mo, dire-direcho naman 'yan ."
Ria Meneses and Chloe Cortez may be the next recipients of Palma's now trademark smirk across the net, as the Lady Tamaraws are set to play University of Santo Tomas on Saturday, in a game with serious implications in the Final 4 race.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.)