FOR somebody who was there when volleyball's popularity was just starting to spike, the sight of record crowds witnessing games in the UAAP Finals evokes both awe and a tinge of envy for Denise Tan.
“Medyo may inggit syempre, pero okay na rin naman atleast kahit papano feeling namin, nakatulong kami kung paano nag-start lumago yung sport,” said the former University of Santo Tomas star.
“Kahit yung mga seniors ko, I’m sure naiingit sila. Pero alam naman nila na this wouldn’t have happened kung hindi sa powerhouse years nung mga seniors namin dati,” added Tan.
Tan was a member of the UST Tigresses' champion team in 2007 and was among the recognized glamour girls of the league at a time when a long-dormant sport was just beginning to come back to life.
As such, she has seen the great strides the sport has taken over the last few years as well as the big improvement in the UAAP tournament, whose games used to be played at the University of the Philippines gym.
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Today, the games are attracting record crowds both at the historic Smart Araneta Coliseum and the Mall of Asia Arena, the demand for tickets said to be bigger than that for Ateneo vs. La Salle basketball games.
Television ratings of the games have likewise hit all-time highs.
“Grabe, I cannot express how happy I am for the sport talaga,” said Tan while mentioning how she and fellow hardcourt stunner Rachel Anne Daquis of Far Eastern University exchanged text messages about it.
“Nagte-text talaga kami ni Rachel, we talk about it. Dati sa UP (gym) lang kami, sa maliit na court lang tapos share pa kami ng men’s team. Tapos ngayon Araneta na at MOA pa,” recalled the UAAP season 69 best setter.
The volleyball star turned sportscaster also hopes that constant exposure from traditional media as well as support from netizens on social media sites will help sustain volleyball's renaissance.
“Constant coverage at exposure lang. Doon lang nagkakalabanan eh," said Tan. "Kapag walang nakikita yung tao, hindi nila nakikita yung talent."
And with the nail-biting result of Game One of the women's finals between La Salle and Ateneo, tickets for Wednesday’s Game Two at the SM Mall of Asia Arena have become harder to secure.
Ateneo athletic director Ricky Palou believes attendance for the second game of the best-of-three series at the bigger MOA Arena will easily eclipse the 17,480 paying spectators in the first match at the Big Dome.
Although the tickets are still to be released, Palou bared that demand is already high considering the game will be played in mid-week.
“It’s weekday, the students have classes and people have to go to the office, pero tingin ko mapupuno yan," said Palou. “Based on the orders, sold out na yan."