THE older Rubie de Leon gets, the better she becomes.
Like a true gem.
On Sunday, the 30-year-old setter was named Finals MVP of the 10th Shakey's V-League First Conference after leading a young National University team to its first-ever league championship.
The former University of Santo Tomas star also saved her best for last, scoring 13 points from six spikes, three blocks, and four service aces in the Lady Bulldogs' 25-22, 25-20, 17-25, 26-24 sudden-death victory over the Ateneo Lady Eagles before a huge crowd at the Philsports Arena.
De Leon admits that she is no longer as fit as she was before and that she feels age is fast catching up with her, although that has not reflected in her game which remained as sharp as ever.
"Syempre pag nasa laro walang aray-aray muna," said the veteran setter. "After ng game doon ko pa lang mararamdaman ang pagod."
De Leon has been around long enough that she has played for almost all of the teams entered in the last Shakey's V-League tournament, having had tours of duties with Adamson, University of the East, Far Eastern University, San Sebastian, UST, Sandugo and NU.
On Sunday, all those years of experience came to the fore when she made what could well be the shot of the tournament - not with a booming kill but with a seemingly harmless two-handed push to an empty spot on Ateneo's side that gave the Lady Bulldogs match point.
"Siguro tumatanda na din pero pag game day kinakalimutan ko muna ang lahat ng sakit," said de Leon.
De Leon never won a championship with UST, but she admits being around much younger teammates at NU, especially teen star Dindin Santiago, has reinvigorated her game.
"As a setter kasi kahit saan mo ibato alam mo mamamatay yung bola (dito sa NU) eh," she said. "Lalo na kay Dindin (Santiago), almost one hundred percent pag binigay mo sa kanya ang bola papatayin niya eh."
With the V-League over, de Leon is set to don the national colors in the Asian zonal qualifiers for the world championships in Vietnam in mid-month before resuming her day job as volleyball coach at Poveda.
That is, until the next tournament comes around.