FAR Eastern University emerging leader Jerrili Malabanan vows to deliver the school’s first major championship in four years as they take on University of the Philippines in the exciting Finale of Premier Volleyball League Season 2 Collegiate Conference.
Malabanan, a recruit from Sunny Hill High School from California, was still a rookie and not yet in the lineup when the Lady Tamaraws won their last major championship in the defunct Shakey’s V-League Season 11 1st Conference in 2014.
As the Lady Tams enter the Collegiate Conference Finals for the second straight year, Malabanan has bloomed as one of the leaders of the team and she is eager to bring home the championship this season.
“I’m very excited because it’s been a while since our team has got our championship,” said the open spiker, who is now on her fifth playing year. “I think it was my first year, that was our last championship. So we’re really eager to get it this year.”
It’s almost but not quite for FEU in last year’s PVL Finals as NU swept its way to their three-peat.
As part of that unfinished business, Malabanan uses that setback as an added motivation on her mission to help the Lady Tams win it all and bring back the glory to Morayta this season.
“We didn’t get our goal last year. So we really wanna prove — not just to our coaches, but to ourselves, our teammates — that we can get it this year,” the 23-year-old said. “I think we have the players to get it.”
After losing Game One of the semifinals against University of Santo Tomas, Malabanan didn’t let her team down in games that mattered most as she poured 17 points in their series-equalizing Game Two win last Saturday and nailed 13 hits to help the Lady Tams in overcoming the young but dangerous Tigresses in the do-or-die Game Three on Sunday.
The 5-foot-10 open hitter said that the non-stop motivation from head coach George Pascua and former leader and teammate Bernadeth Pons helped them to overcome the hump.
“I think my performance in the whole PVL, it’s been up and down so coach has been telling to our team that he really needs one of the veterans to step up,” said Malabanan, who averaged 13.33 points in the best-of-three semis series. “Our rookies are the ones who are stepping up so he said that he needs the veterans to step up so that it’ll be easier for us to get the win.”
Aside from their coach, Malabanan and her teammates also got an inspiring pep talk from Pons, who led FEU to a silver medal finish in last year’s PVL and UAAP Season 80, before their grueling weekend, needing to win back-to-back games in two days.
“Well, Pons is always Pons whenever she talks to us everybody is always listening, she has all of our attention,” she said. “After our bible study on Thursday, she talked to us for a while and she said that she believes in us and she knows that even though she’s not here anymore, she believes that our team is strong enough to overcome anything.“
With a week to prepare for UP Lady Maroons before their best-of-three titular series begins on Sunday, Malabanan and the Lady Tams are bracing for a tight battle against their rivals, who are relishing the moment of their first finals appearance.
“I think our teams are pretty even like when we faced UP in the preliminary round it was a close game too,” she said. “They have a fast offense so our coaches said we have to focus on our defense and blockings.”