Unforgettable, that’s what you are.
As the music blares, and the scintillating voice sings that tune, there is surely one image that comes to mind.
An outside hitter, whose thunderous spikes, inspiring on-court leadership, and captivating aura has given the sport of volleyball an incredible primetime lift.
Of course, Alyssa Valdez is someone who would excel in the sport. Since her high school days as a UST Junior Golden Tigress, you would somehow get the knack about her potential, taking down opponents on a whim by just that awesome set-up and graceful yet powerful kill.
And as she took the cudgels at the attack zone of the Ateneo Lady Eagles, there was no stopping her. Alyssa was simply the phenom everyone hailed and opponents feared. She was the showstopper on any rally given her awesome strength, incredible precision, and incalculable moves near the net that could bring the Blue Babble Battalion to its grittiest, loudest cheer.
Yes, that’s her calling. But more than being the Queen Eagle, Alyssa Valdez became the icon that magnified and extended the reach of the sport to a glaring populace. Not only did she carry her awesome Lady Eagles squad to back-to-back UAAP titles in 2014 and 2015, Alyssa made the sport so popular that a 20,000 plus-strong sell-out Finals audience at either the Araneta Coliseum or the Mall of Asia Arena would gather and witness how things will boil down amid the luster of her play. And, hearing about her, even those who haven’t watched a college varsity volleyball game, much less watched a volleyball game at all, opened their TV sets and see what the fuzz was all about. They were utterly impressed, especially young girls thinking seriously about playing volleyball and deciding to follow her footsteps.
They are certainly most dazzled by her wizardry yet most enthralled by the way she carries herself on and off the court. How she carries each lost point in stride and beckons her weary teammates to stay focused on move on to the next opportunity. And, of course how she cheers them on when they score and gives them encouragement to further seal that rally and victory—all with that captivating smile that endears everyone.
And in the final chapter of her incredible five-year collegiate journey, it all came to that Best of Three series against her perennial Finals opponent and school rival De La Salle Lady Spikers. While the vestiges of numerous battles may have taken its toll on the phenom, what she showed during those last grueling games of her UAAP stint was the heart of a true warrior.
Having lost five straight sets since Game 1, Alyssa took it upon herself not to end the Lady Eagles’ campaign in shame by single-handedly taking matters into her own hands and scoring an eye-popping 34 points in Game 2. She led a blistering attack by the Lady Eagles in Set 3 of Game 2 and blanked the Lady Spikers to make them live another day: the rubber match.
Game 3, that was all for the Lady Spikers’ taking. With Alyssa still in form at the start of the game with Ateneo taking Set 1, she and the rest of the Lady Eagles had since been shackled by the Lady Spikers’ solid, stonewall reception. Those massive blocks, superb digs, and La Salle’s own offensive run, capped by Kim Kianna Dy’s championship-winning kill, spoiled what could have been Alyssa’s storybook ending.
But yet another revelation about the unforgettable legend that is Alyssa is that she was magnanimous all the way. Hugging both opponents and teammates alike, including her coach Tai Bundit and even La Salle coach Ramil de Jesus, reaching out to league officials, supporters, and the Ateneo community for being the rock that kept her grounded and the wings that made her soar.
How did Alyssa impact the league and the sport? What will make her unforgettable? Above all the statistical milestones, the MVP awards, the championships she has won, Alyssa Valdez made a growing number of people learn, live and love the sport.