‘Dati, sarili lang iniisip ko:’ Three-time MVP Grethcel Soltones reflects on how she’s grown

Three-time MVP Grethcel Soltones reflects on how she’s grown
"We’ve learned our lesson from the heartbreaks, and dahil rin sa heartbreak kaya mayroon kaming goal.”

For many years, Grethcel Soltones’ intensity on the court was matched only by her bungisngis side when off-duty. But while the SSCR Lady Stags’ team captain still cracks jokes in pre-game interviews and shoots dance videos with her friends, she also catches herself dropping introspective lines about her team: “Ngayon ko lang naramdaman ‘yung mahal na mahal ko sila.”

Even she’s surprised. “Hala, kailan ako naging ganito magsalita?” she asks.

The reluctant team captain

Soltones didn’t want to become team captain at first. “Umiyak talaga ako noong sinabi ni coach [Roger Gorayeb],” she shares. “Ayoko talaga kasi parang ang bigat ng dadalhin mo.”

But who else could it be? Soltones was their dominant offensive force, the most vocal player on the court, the one her teammates looked to for confidence. Eventually, Soltones grew to love her job—and gain a new appreciation for her teammates.

“Dati, sarili lang iniisip ko. Basta, I get what I want,” she admits. “Nagagalit ako [sa team], ganoon. Ngayon, ayoko na.” After losing to the Arellano University Lady Chiefs in the first match of the NCAA Season 92 finals, Soltones asked her teammates to come to the gym early. “Walang sisihan,” she told them. “Kasi nagkamali ang bawat isa sa ating lahat.”

“Last year, I was so pissed off [when we didn’t win the championship],” Soltones explains. “Ngayon, gusto ko sa lahat ng sets, kahit anong mangyari, I’m smiling. I want to lift my teammates up.”

‘Hindi ko pa nararating ‘yung gusto ko’

As she inches towards graduation, Soltones thinks of lucky she is to be playing volleyball at a time when the sport is already popular in the Philippines. “Syempre iniisip din natin ‘yung future,” she says. “Hindi ko pa nararating ‘yung gusto ko.”

Soltones is talking about her dream to build a house in her hometown, Cebu where she and her family can live. To this end, she’s already looking at possible teams and leagues to join after the NCAA season closes.

“Sa aming players, kapag alam mo na ‘yung laro ng mga kasama mo, nakakagawa ka ng comfort zone,” she says. For a second, the conversation appears to point towards reuniting with her friends from previous Shakeys V-League teams, but Soltones changes track. “’Yun ang gusto kong iwasan. Mas gusto ko ng mga bagong experiences, bagong challenges.”

‘I don’t care about the MVP awards, I want a team achievement’

With three MVP awards and a beach volleyball championship in the NCAA, another MVP plum in the V-League, the chance to play with other UAAP and NCAA stars in Doha last year—Soltones’ credentials assure her of a post-college career.

But before that, there’s the achievement that has eluded Soltones all these years: an indoor volleyball championship for the Lady Stags.

“I don’t care about the MVP awards, I want a team achievement,” she says. “Sa tingin ko our team is prepared mentally na. We’ve learned our lesson from the heartbreaks, and dahil rin sa heartbreak kaya mayroon kaming goal.”

Soltones will always have that bungisngis in her, but now, that’s accompanied with hard-won maturity: “‘Yung individual awards, para sa akin lang ‘yun. Ang championship, para sa aming lahat.”

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Ceej Tantengco is a reporter and writer for S+A. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

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