COLLEGE of Saint Benilde's Rachel Austero made the biggest sacrifice for the Lady Blazers to serve her last playing year this NCAA Season 94 women’s volleyball tournament, which opens in November.
Austero failed to contribute her usual numbers for the Lady Blazers in their whole elimination campaign in the Premier Volleyball League Season 2 Collegiate Conference campaign due to the left shin stress fracture that she sustained in the previous Reinforced Conference playing for the Petro Gazz Angels.
But among all the players, she made the biggest sacrifice last year just to preserve her eligibility.
The 5-foot-9 middle blocker was supposed to graduate last year as a Production Design major but according to the rule of NCAA once a player finished all the units, the player will not be eligible to play anymore.
Former St. Benilde coach Macky Cariño, before he was ousted from the Lady Blazers team weeks prior to NCAA Season 93, convinced Austero to shift course.
“I was about to graduate na dapat last year ng Production Design. Pero sila coach Macky, they wanted me to shift course para maubos ko 'yung five years. Sobrang lapit na talaga ako dapat mag-graduate,” she shared to reporters.
But for the love of the game, the school and her team, Austero decided to make a sacrifice and shifted to BS Interior Design.
“Bumalik ako ng frosh sa Interior Design last year,” said the now second-year student.
“Dapat focus na lang ako sa studies, pero nakita ko na malaking aspect kapag buo kami ng team,” the 21-year-old spiker added. “Kayang-kaya ng team namin. Makikita mo 'yung eagerness nila this season. Hindi mo naman sila kayang pabayaan kasi 'yung love mo sa sport, sa team, and sa school kailangan panindigan.”
After getting clearance to play last Friday, Austero still played limited minutes, only checking in the third set and finishing with three points as the Lady Blazers swept University of Perpetual Help Lady Altas in straight sets, 25-11, 25-22, 25-18, in their last elimination-round game on Saturday at the Arena in San Juan City.
The Lady Blazers finished the elims with a 3-4 win-loss record and there is a little hope for them to force a playoff for the last semifinals berth if NCAA rival San Beda Lady Red Spikers (2-4) would beat current the fourth-running UP Lady Maroons (3-3) on Sunday.
“Kung makakapasok kami sa semis — medyo masakit nga sa amin kasi wala kaming magagawa — malaking bagay 'yun na makapaghanda pa kami for NCAA. Malaking bagay sa amin na mapakita ng bawat isa 'yung skills namin,” Austero said.
Austero admitted that failing to help her team this conference hurts more than her injury but it's a blessing in disguise giving her young teammates a good exposure.
“At some point, gusto ko pumasok, gusto mo tumulong. Pero, ito 'yung point na makakapagbigay sa iba ng chance,” Austero said. “Team 'to, hindi puwedeng ikaw lang. Maganda 'to kasi nabibigyan sila ng opportunity na makalaro. Nakikita ko naman na nabubuo sila and 'yung kulang na lang nila 'yung pupunan mo.”
“Si coach kasi gusto niyang lahat ng player is versatile. Gusto niya na pwede maglaro ng ibang positions kami. Mas mahihirapan 'yung opponents na basahin kami. Lahat ng skills pinapagawa niya sa amin,” she added.
Whatever happens — if their PVL stint will be extended or not, Austero and her team is ready for NCAA Season 94, which starts in November.
“We're pretty positive na kayang maging maganda 'yung campaign namin this season. Marami 'ring critics. Gusto namin na ipakita na lang,” she concluded.