FOR MIKA Reyes, La Salle’s title comeback in 2016 is her sweetest and most fulfilling championship.
Reyes has emerged as one of the most decorated volleyball players in the country as she won three UAAP championships and collected four Philippine Superliga titles, winning three with Petron from 2017 to 2019 and an All-Filipino champoonship with F2 Logisitics in 2016.
The four-time PSL Best Middle blocker, who is now with Sta. Lucia, has also been representing the Philippine women’s volleyball team since 2017 and had a once in a lifetime stint in the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship, when the country hosted and participated four years ago.
But of all her accolades, the 26-year-old’s most memorable achievement was the UAAP Season 78 title with the Lady Spikers, who regained their lost glory against the Alyssa Valdez-led Ateneo four years ago.
“Hindi ko rin talaga makakalimutan yun. Lagi ko talaga tong pinagmamalaki yung last playing year ko, yung UAAP Season 78 championship. Yun yung pinakamasarap na championship talaga sa buong college life ko,” said Reyes in an episode of Spin Sidelines.
It’s the most memorable title for Reyes considering she almost gave up and thought about forgoing her final playing year.
The reason? She felt useless and lost her self-confidence after losing back-to-back Finals to Ateneo, blowing a thrice-to-beat advantage in 2014 and getting swept in 2015 that allowed the Lady Eagles to complete a perfect 16-0 season.
“Yun yung pinakamasakit na naramdaman namin. Actually, ako to the point na ayoko na talaga gamitin yung last playing year ko,” Reyes recalled. “Na-feel ko rin yun nung hindi ko na gagamitin last playing year ko kasi ayoko na rin maglaro parang bumaba na self esteem ko na dalawang beses kami natalo, wala naman akong natutulong sa team.“
“May point din na nagkaka-heart to heart talk minsan sinasabi ko rin kay coach na, ‘Coach wala naman ako natutulong sa team palitan niyo na ako. Wag na ako yung gamitin niyo; yung mga ganun,’” she added.
But La Salle head coach Ramil de Jesus didn’t give up on his recruit from Pulilan, Bulacan and made her realize her worth to the team.
“Parang lagi lang niya nire-remind sa amin na, ‘Hindi kita pinili kung ganyan lang tingin mo sa sarili mo. Isipin mo na mas marami na naniniwala sayo at maniwala ka muna sa sarili mo bago ka maniwala sa sinasabi ng iba,’” Reyes shared.
If not for the trust and perseverance of De Jesus to his players, the 6-foot middle blocker could have given up on volleyball a long time ago.
“Hindi niya ako sinukuan; alam yun ni mama. Kahit ako sumusuko na ako sa volleyball, sinusukuan ko na siya na ‘Coach ayoko na gusto ko na mag-quit. Ayoko na maglaro,’” Reyes said. “Doon na-harness yung self discipline ko na totoo pala yung mga sinasabi niya even before na para sayo lahat tong sinasabi ko na kahit pinapagalitan niya ako para sayo rin yan.”
After hearing the words of encouragement from her coach, Reyes unleashed her desire to win a UAAP title in her last season with fellow seniors Cyd Demecillo, Mika Esperanza, Carol Cerveza and the returning Ara Galang from a gruesome knee injury.
“Ayaw naming maramdaman yun na aalis kami sa La Salle na ito yung iniwan namin. Anong mararamdaman ng mga rookies, mga batang iniwanan namin na wala man lang kaming naitulong?” she said.
The Taft Tower proved her worth during the eliminations, helping La Salle clinch the second seed and twice-to-beat advantage by winning 11 out of 14 games before surviving the Bernadeth Pons-led Far Eastern University in the Final Four to set their fifth straight Finals showdown against Ateneo.
Reyes had a farewell performance to remember, averaging 12 points in their epic best-of-three title series that reached a winner-take-all Game Three to exact a sweet revenge on their archrivals.
The Lady Spikers proved that teamwork makes the dream work as De Jesus banked on the wall defense of Reyes and Majoy Baron, brilliant plays of Kim Fajardo, floor defense of Dawn Macandili and tremendous offense of Finals MVP Kianna Dy, Galang and Demecillo to finally overcome the Valdez-led Lady Eagles.
That sweet Season 78 title turned Reyes into one of the most successful volleyball players today and embarked another ‘three-peat’ for La Salle beating Ateneo anew in 2017 and FEU in the 2018 Finals only for the Sisi Rondina and Eya Laure-led University of Santo Tomas to end its dynasty in last year’s Final Four.