BEFORE University of the Philippines made its historic first Finals appearance in the Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference, the Lady Maroons were grieving the death of assistant coach Joyce Palad's mother, Maria Josefina Referente-Palad, who succumbed to Stage 4 Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.
But the Lady Maroons drew inspiration from Palad’s dedication in helping them overcome the top seed Lady Falcons with a four-set win in their do-or-die match to achieve their first-ever Finals appearance in a major volleyball league.
The assistant of UP head coach Godfrey Okumu was not expected to show up in their semifinals series against Adamson with her recent loss, especially in the do-or-die Game Three last Sunday — the same day of her mother’s cremation.
“Nagsabi kasi ako sa mga bata na baka di ako makapunta kasi cremation ni mama,” the former Lady Maroon-turned-coach shared. “Although I sent them some instructions naman just in case di ako umabot. 10 am kasi yung schedule nung cremation tapos 12 noon ‘yung sa columbary so I thought di ako aabot.”
But Palad still went to the Arena in San Juan to coach her team after the cremation and getting the go signal of her father and ex-Ginebra cager Bennett Palad and her sisters.
“We ended early kaya nagpaalam ako kela papa and sa sisters ko if pwede ba ko humabol since 1:30pm tapos na kami. Pinayagan naman ako kaya humabol na ko. Alam naman din nila na semis and important game since natalo nga nung Saturday,” she added.
Right after beating the Lady Falcons, Isa Molde, Ayel Estrañero, and the Lady Maroons rushed to hug their emotional coach and attributed their historic win for her mother.
“Siyempre, sobrang importante ni Ate Joyce. Sabi niya na baka hindi siya makapunta. So, sabi niya, kahit anong mangyare proud kaming coaches sa inyo,” said Molde, who unleashed 27 points in Game Three. “Gusto din namin i-dedicate 'yung game for her mom.”
Estrañero, who made 35 excellent sets on top of three points, agreed with Molde.
“When I saw her, I ran to her and hugged her kasi everyone expected her not to come,” the team captain and playmaker said. “She's really a big help, especially when she reminds us to try to relax and enjoy the game. Her feedbacks help the team a lot because we trust her as a coach.”
“Sobrang na-apprecieate namin kasi we can see how dedicated she is to the team. She still shows up in training and does extra with us. It just shows how dedicated professional she is,” she added.
Palad shared that she came because her mother, a former national team player and a volleyball coach, loved the sport and her team.
“Siyempre ‘yung family ko rin. Siguro it’s the love of the sport na lang din. And also because of mama since volleyball player din siya. It reminds me of her kasi nag coach din siya sa work nila just recently,” she said.
“And she loved the girls din naman. Kinekwentuhan ko kasi siya about the games and all.”
“Di ko rin kasi maiwasang mag alala since semis game eh. Important ‘yun sa mga bata, kaya important din siya sakin,” she added.
The grieving Palad will continue to get strength from her wards as UP makes is first Finals against Far Eastern University in a best-of-three PVL championship series starting on Sunday.
“Honestly, they inspire me also kaya nagpupunta pa rin akong training. Everytime na andun kasi ako, gumagaan loob ko dahil dun sa mga bata. Happy pill ko sila,” Palad concluded.