UNIVERSITY of Santo Tomas coach Kungfu Reyes was glad to see his trust in a pair of 'secret weapons' pay off in the Tigresses' 25-21, 25-22, 25-21 win over La Salle in the UAAP Season 78 women’s volleyball tournament.
UST showed grit and composure especially towards the end of the second and third sets when they came charging back from 17-21 and 15-18 deficits, respectively, to pull off its biggest victory of the season thus far.
Old reliables EJ Laure and Cherry Rondina led the charge with 13 and 11 points apiece while Jessey de Leon also had eight markers. But the win would not have been possible without the help of lesser-known players.
Rica Rivera, who was converted from a spiker to libero for the second consecutive match, took the defensive load with 13 digs and 16 excellent receptions for the Espana-based squad while seldom used rookie Christine Francisco contributed five points down the stretch.
“Sabi ko nga sa sarili ko, paano mag-step up ang mga ‘yan kung hindi ko susubukan gamitin? Kaya nagbalasa kami talaga ng tao,” said Reyes.
“Gamitin ko naman sila minsan para ma-redeem nila ang sarili nila at tumaas ang confidence nila na [para masabi nilang], ‘Ay, kaya ko pala,’ especially si Francisco,” he added.
The 35-year old mentor, who also handles the UST high school team, said he’s not surprised with the performance of the 17-year old Francisco, a product of the school's successful juniors program.
“I know her very much na kapag La Salle ang kalaban niyan, lumalabas ang pangil niya [kasi Tigress siya]. Since high school siya, grabe maglaro ‘yan pag kalaban La Salle,” revealed Reyes.
“Meron kasi kapag nakakita ng green (La Salle’s color) natatakot na, eh si Christine Francisco buong-buo ang loob pag La Salle ang kalaban, hindi ko alam [kung bakit], motivation para sa kanya siguro,” he added.
UST finished the first round of eliminations with a 3-4 card for a three-way logjam at fifth spot with National U and Adamson. The Tigresses start their second round campaign on Saturday against winless University of the East.