EXPERIENCING the tough times just makes this outright UAAP Season 84 women's volleyball Finals breakthrough for National University much sweeter for Jennifer Nierva.
"Yung journey na yun, masaya ako na napagdaanan ko," she said as the Lady Bulldogs completed the 14-0 elimination sweep to push the squad to their first championship appearance in the Final Four era.
"Yung mga times na natalo ako, yung hindi kami nanalo, di siguro namin maaabot kung ano kami at yung naabot namin ngayon kung di dahil sa setbacks namin. Kaya kami mas naging matatag, mas naging matibay, at mas nagtrabaho kami kasi natutunan ko na may mas gusto pa akong marating not just for myself but for the team and the school."
The third-year libero saw those struggles first-hand, with her introduction in the seniors division being a 4-10 campaign back in UAAP Season 81.
Jennifer Nierva on NU rookies
But now that NU is just two wins away from the cup, Nierva knows that there's really no one else to thank except for the rookies who chose to stay.
"Sobrang thakful ako sa mga bata na umakyat from high school for choosing NU talaga," she said, grateful for the loyalty that has kept the likes of Bella Belen, Alyssa Solomon, Lams Lamina, and Sheena Toring in Jhocson.
"Maraming offers from other schools pero talagang yung loyalty nila and the vision for the team, binigay nila yung sarili nila and that's something I'm very grateful. Iba yung feeling na makasama sila sa loob and I'm very proud na kasama ko sila. Kung kalaban ko sila, mahihirapan ako for sure."
Nierva admitted that even back in their days in NU-Nazareth School that she saw immense potential from these crop of spikers as evidenced by their dominance in the girls' volleyball competition.
"Nakikita ko po talaga sa training pa lang yung passion nila, yung hardwork, at kung paano nila ine-enjoy lang yung paglalaro," said Nierva, who was part of the Lady Bullpups' four-peat in the high school ranks from 2014 to 2017.
And it's all the more evident in that testy second set when NU had to fight from a 20-16 deficit against a fierce University of Santo Tomas crew on Thursday.
To Nierva, the resolve that the young Lady Bulldogs showed in this match, as well as in the entirety of the whole campaign, is just awe-inspiring which made this unbeaten feat not really that surprising.
"Nakita ko yung maturity ng mga bata," she said. "Yung second set, di ko na-feel na matatalo tayo kasi tiwala ako sa pinagtrabahuan ng bawat isa kahit ahead yung kalaban and talagang we just enjoyed the game."
"Lagi kong hina-huddle sila and sinasabi na focus lang at wag tayong matakot magkamali. Yung skills nandoon na eh, yung pinagtrabahuan natin every single day, yung hirap sa training, kahit games nagbubuhat tayo, nakadepende na lang yun kung paano ka na lang mpagtitiwala sa bawat isa. Kaya never ako nag-doubt nung second set na di namin matatawid yun."
What makes these neophytes all the more endearing for veterans like Nierva, Cess Robles, and Ivy Lacsina is how they have been willing to follow the lead of their seniors.
"Grateful ako na yung mga bata, through the leadership of the seniors like Princess Robles, Ivy Lacsina, at ako, they followed us eh," said Nierva. "Di matigas ang ulo nila at nagfa-follow sila sa amin. Yung jell na meron kami even before sa high school, di nila pinakawalan at dala-dala namin ngayon."
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