It wasn’t just a UST team run by Sisi Rondina and Eya Laure as the role players rose to the occasion in bringing the school back in the UAAP women’s volleyball finals after eight years.
Laure delivered the back-to-back winning spikes that brought UST to the grandest stage of UAAP Season 81 and also played her heart out with a career-high 25 points in their five-set win over La Salle on Sunday at the MOA Arena in Pasay City.
But before the Tigresses rookie sensation's Finals-clinching hits, setter Alina Bicar also came to the rescue in the fifth set when they squandered a 10-5 lead in the decider as La Salle unloaded a 5-1 run to cut down the deficit to just one, 11-10.
Bicar, surprisingly, nailed an attack and delivered a clutch service ace that gave UST a 13-10 breather before escaping with a big win.
“Siyempre masaya kasi finals na. Nagtulungan lang kami sa loob pag may walang laro yung isa tatakpan,” said Bicar, who dished out 23 excellent sets to go with her 15 digs and five points.
“Kasi hindi naman to individual na sport, team naman ito. So kung may nagkakamali na isa, bawiin mo agad sa ibang aspeto naman.”
Middle blockers KC Galdones and Caitlyn Viray were also instrumental in the UST victory, chipping in 11 and 10 points, respectively, while rookie Ysa Jimenez added six markers.
“Before pa dumating yung game na ‘to talagang kine-claim na namin,” Viray said. “Pero siyempre, hindi pwedeng basta-basta i-claim lang, pagta-trabahuan namin ng sama-sama kami. Ang sarap sa feeling na pare-parehas kami eager na manalo, na makapasok sa finals.”
“Ayaw namin mabalewala lahat ng paghihirap namin simula pa lang nung unang pinaghandaan namin yung UAAP,” Jimenez added. "Yung pagod nila coach, yung mga sacrifices namin na late natatapos ma-perfect lang namin lahat ng ginagawa namin.”
Graduating libero Rica Rivera also got the job done, protecting UST’s floor with 21 digs and as many as excellent receptions.
“Kaming players na nagtrabaho kami isa-isa at makuha namin yung time na magkamali, ibabawi namin yung teammate namin,” Rivera said. “Kung hindi sa skills, ibawi natin sa character naman. Mindset na namin na focus kami sa game na to. Walang mawawala, sa atin 'to. And itong finals na 'to para sa UST, ibibigay namin yung best na best na exit namin ni Sisi.”
Rondina, who scored 17 points, admitted that she failed to contribute down the stretch as she owed the Finals appearance to all her teammates.
“Unang-una, ako yung nawala. Wala talaga, bumabawi lang ako sa likod. But sabi nga ng mga bata, walang sisihan. Iga-guide nila ako at tutulungan nila ako,” Rondina said. “Sobrang laki para ibalik yung kumpiyansa mo. Kasi ako talaga parang sabog ako pero nakabalik naman with the help of these girls.“
Now that they are in the Finals, Rondina knows that her teammates won’t let her down as the Tigresses march into the best-of-three Finals series beginning on Saturday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum facing either Ateneo or Far Eastern University.