JENNIFER Nierva didn’t hesitate to try her luck and chase her Philippine team dream, amid the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When she got invited by the Philippine National Volleyball Federation Inc. to try out for the women’s pool, the 21-year-old libero was filled with excitement for an opportunity to fight for a spot and return to the court after a year of inactivity from the sport.
“First thing I felt was excitement. Ang sarap sa pakiramdam makita yung pangalan ko sa list pero nakakakaba kasi kasama ko yung mga magagaling at kilalang libero sa bansa,” Nierva told Spin.ph.
“It’s always been my dream to be part of the national team and I’m grateful because they gave me an opportunity to reach my dream,” she added.
Twenty-three of the 40 invitees — including several stars and national team mainstays — begged off to join the one-day tryout due to their fears of getting infected by the virus and the risk of bringing it home to their families.
Nierva knew how risky it was to travel considering the spike in COVID-19 cases — even National University head coach Karl Dimaculangan was also worried for all the Lady Bulldogs invited to the new normal tryouts.
But her eagerness to don the Philippine colors someday prevailed as she traveled all the way from Manila to Subic to join the 15 other hopefuls in the unprecedented bubble tryouts of the PNVF for the 31st Southeast Asian Games.
“Actually, our head coach asked us if we really want to join the tryouts and I told him that I badly want to attend. Getting an invitation for the (national team) is a once in a lifetime opportunity that can be given to me so I don’t want to waste it,” she said.
“I also told him that we cannot deny the fact that we are in a pandemic and there is a high risk but if we follow the safety protocols, I believe that we will be safe.”
Nierva felt safe with the protocols before, during and after the tryouts. Although sporting a face mask while playing was an extra challenge for their body condition that missed competitive volleyball for a year, she and her fellow players understood it was for their safety.
Braving her way to the tryouts was rewarding for the defensive specialist as it was one of the most memorable moments of her young career so far.
“It was an unforgettable moment for me because I was able to step inside the court and play the sport that I love again after a very long time. At ang saya kasi yung pagbalik ko sa court tryout pa for the National Team,” she said.
“Nung tryout kahit na onti lang kaming umattend, I can say na sobrang nagenjoy kami. Walang pressure, basta naglaro lang kami and binigay namin yung best namin.”
Nierva and seven other collegiate players also had a great time to play and learn from the national team mainstays Aby Maraño, Jaja Santiago, Majoy Baron, Mylene Paat, and Eya Laure, who cheered for these young hopefuls.
“They were very nice and kind to us. Syempre mga bata kami so nahihiya talaga kami pero hindi nila pinaramdam na iba kami sa kanila. Unang drill pa lang nung tryout sila yung nagstart mag cheer sa amin,” she said. “Sobrang kumalma ako dun kasi nung una medyo pressured kung paano ako magpe-perform pero yung simple gesture na yun natulungan nila ako. And I’m very thankful for that.”
She’s also proud to represent their school with fellow Lady Bulldogs Ivy Lacsina, Mhicaela Belen, Alyssa Solomon and Kamille Cal along with their senior in Santiago, who has been making waves in Japan V.League.
“Nakakaproud makita na ang dami kong teammates na kasama dun. Lahat ng pagod at hirap namin sa court ng magkakasama ay worth it. I’m really proud seeing them there, giving their best and enjoying every moment of the tryout,” Nierva said.
PNVF president Tats Suzara said that these 16 hopefuls are already shoo-ins in principle but there’s still a deliberation with head coach Odjie Mamon, his staff and National Teams Commission head Tony Boy Liao for the 20-member pool on Saturday and will announce the players who will make it on May 7.
Nierva is not expecting to be part of the national pool yet, even though she and incoming University of Santo Tomas rookie Bernadette Pepito were the only liberos who attended.
“To be honest, hindi pa siya nagsisink in. Actually, up to this moment I don’t think I’m part of the National Team yet. Kasi wala pang nilalabas na official line up yung PNVF kaya I don’t know what to feel pa po,” she said.
“I don’t want to get my hopes up. Pero kung dadating po yung situation na yun, madami pa pong process na pagdadaanan. May mga tao pa po kaming kailangan kausapin at kailangan po magpaalam dahil we’re still student-athletes.”
But if she makes it to the 20-member pool, the student-athlete is ready to heed the call and achieve her dream to don the national colors.
“But I’m looking forward for that to happen. And when that happens, I will give my all for the team,” Nierva said. “Ang focus ko lang po ngayon is to make myself better every day by working out and I make sure na if ipapatawag kami, ready po ako.”
We are now on Quento! Download the app on Google Play or App Store and enjoy more articles and videos from SPIN.ph and other Summit Media websites.