THEIR entry to the women’s division delayed due to the K-12 program, the UAAP Season 81 rookies are eager to prove to their teams it was worth the wait.
Scribes argue this group could rival the Season 74 class of Alyssa Valdez, Ara Galang and Mika Reyes, Season 76 batch of Jia Morado, Des Cheng, Michelle Morente and Bernadeth Pons as well as the Season 78 class bannered by Isa Molde, Tots Carlos, May Luna and Tin Tiamzon.
Jolina de la Cruz, La Salle
Arguably the biggest surprise among the rookies, De la Cruz delivered big for the Lady Spikers in their victory win over archrivals Ateneo Lady Eagles.
De la Cruz, who played in the Palarong Pambansa for Region 3, got the start for La Salle in the opener and had 11 points in their 25-14, 25-17, 16-25, 25-19 victory on Sunday at the MOA Arena.
The recruit from Academia de San Lorenzo in Bulacan proved that she deserved her spot in the starting six as she stepped up in the rivalry match in front of a crowd of 17,166 crowd.
“Siyempre po honor po yun sa akin, na sinama po ako ni coach sa starter. Yun po, parang sobrang kailangan po talaga sa lahat ng gagawin mo, confident ka,” the 19-year-old rookie said. “Hindi naman madali kalabanin yung Ateneo. Yung mindset po namin na mag-eenjoy kami, maglalaro kami nang maayos, hindi kami prinepressure ng mga ates.”
Coach Ramil de Jesus said was very pleased with De la Cruz’s performance, adding that jitters at this time is normal.
“Well as a rookie, siguro para sa akin nasa sixty percent ang laro kanina. Expected ko na yun kasi bago sa kanya lahat ng nangyayari. Siguro yung dami ng crowd, yung ingay ng crowd,” De Jesus said. “Sabi ko nga kanina after ng second set: 'Jolina, sobrang confused mo na kasi ang likot na ng mata mo.' Ni-remind ko lang siya. 'Kailangan ko lang ng makakatulong sa loob. Kailangan ko ng tulong mo.'“
“Ganoon talaga pag first game. Siguro sa sunod, hindi na ganoon,” he added.
Lycha Ebon, FEU
A 5-foot-8 hitter, Ebon did well in the preseason for FEU ad continued her fine play in the UAAP, scoring 13 in a four-set win over National University on Saturday at Arena in San Juan.
“Sabi ko kaya ko to andyan naman sila ate para i-guide ako alam ko namang di nila ako papabayaan,” Ebon said. “Chinachallenge ko sarili ko tapos sinasabi ko sa sarili ko kung ano pa yung mga kailangan pang iimprove para yung trust na binigay nila sa akin hindi mawala.”
The recruit from Davao National High School is eager to contribute as Jerrili Malabanan, Kyle Negrito and Heather Guino-o hope to end their careers as champions.
“Goal ko siyempre magstart muna sa sarili ko para matulungan ko sila ate,” Ebon said.
Eya Laure, UST
ONE of the most decorated players in her batch in the UAAP girls’ tournament, Laure finally debuted for the Tigresses had a rather tough start.
Eya, the sister of former UST star EJ Laure, had 17 points in a 25-21, 25-21, 24-26, 24-26, 15-6 win over Adamson on Sunday.
The former UAAP girls’ MVP only hit 13 spikes from 39 attempts, a 33.33 percent success rate, and committed several crucial errors that allowed Adamson to force a fifth set.
“Siguro thankful na din ako kasi nashowcase ko yung talent na binuild up sa akin ni coach Kungfu (Reyes) since high school. Sobrang happy and overwhelmed ako lalo na sa support ng UST crowd,” she said.
“Sa tagal kong naghintay na makalaro dito sa collegiate sobrang hungry ko na kumbaga makatulong sa UST and sa team,” Laure said. “Every game papakita ko talaga kung paano ako maglaro, kung ano yung mga pwede kong itulong sa team and yung goal namin this season is final four yun muna step by step tayo.
Ivy Lacsina and Princess Ann Robles, NU
THE Lady Bulldogs have several players from the four-time UAAP girls’ champion team of the Lady Bullpups, but got a rude reception in the women’s tournament opener.
The Lady Bulldogs fell to the Lady Tams, 25-22, 19-25, 19-25, 12-25, on Saturday, even as Ivy Lacsina and Princess Ann Robles did well.
Six-foot-1 Lacsina led the team with 14 points, and vowed to triple her effort in the rest of UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball tournament.
“Siguro for me kahit papaano naman nakapagcontribute naman ako pero alam ko sa sarili ko na kailangan ko magtriple ng trabaho kasi alam ko kulang na kulang pa,” the rookie said. “Wala naman po kaming nafi-feel na pressure kasi sabi po ni coach na ienjoy daw po yung game.”
UAAP Season 79 girls’ Finals MVP Robles had 13 points and also promised to do even better.
“Siguro yung attitude namin, yung maturity kasi puro kami bata kailangan namin magstep up para sa mga gusto naming kunin yung mga iimprove namin,” Robles said.
Joyme Cagande also did fine, making 15 excellent sets on top of two service aces but unfortunately suffered an LCL sprain on her knee late in the game and her return is still uncertain.
Jaja Maraguinot and Vanie Gandler, Ateneo
Sister of former Ateneo top hitter Jho, rookie setter Jaja Maraguinot stepped up as starter Deanna Wong struggled in the four-set loss to La Salle.
Saying she did not feel any pressure, Maraguinot, from De La Salle Lipa, made 13 excellent sets on top of two points.
“Not really. I swear, not really. I don't know why. Pero ayun, hindi naman kinabahan talaga,” the setter said. “Sobrang dami rin nagtatanong sa akin na how do you feel, what do you feel about this game. I was just telling na 'kalma lang.' Kalma lang, hindi naman kailangan ma-pressure kasi it's a game, madami na naman tayong nalaro, so para saan pa na kabahan ka, 'di ba?”
Gandler, meanwhile, could not match her fine performances in the preseason tournaments, scoring only one point in the four sets she played.
She will try to prove her worth as the Lady Eagles try to bounce back against UST on Tuesday.
Nikka Yandoc and Trisha Genesis, Adamson
Little-known setter Nikka Yandoc played solid for Adamson with 34 excellent sets and four points in a five-set loss to UST.
PVL Collegiate Conference Best Setter MJ Igao was largely expected to be the main setter, but Yandoc got the job and repaid coach Air Padda’s faith.
Genesis, on the other hand, played limited minutes, with Adamson loaded with spikers in Chiara Permentilla, Eli Soyud and Bern Flora.
The prized spiker from Holy Rosary College had three points, seeing action only in the second set.
Rem Altomea and Lorie Bernardo, UP
UP libero Rem Altomea shone brightest among the Lady Maroons rookies with 18 excellent digs out of 26 attempts.
“Para sa akin nakakapressure kasi siyempre madaming nageexpect kasi nakuha namin yung title ng PSL at PVL parang doble doble,” said Altomea. “Training pa lang ginagawa na namin ng maayos lahat para pagdating ng laro alam na namin yug gagawin namin at di na mangangapa sa loob ng court.”
Middle blocker Lorie Bernardo got the start in her debut, scoring five points, while back-up setter Mariane Sotomil played one set.