If given a chance, outgoing University of Sto. Tomas ace Sisi Rondina would still want to play for the Tigresses.
The Season Most Valuable Player bid goodbye to the black and gold on Saturday – a fruitful five-year stint that saw Rondina give her all from the struggling days of UST up to the final moment of the Tigresses in the biggest stage of the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball tournament.
“Kanina kasi that time na the ball was checked out alam ko na pagka-hit pa lang ng bola, pagkapuntos pa lang ng kalaban alam ko na matatapos na ako as a Golden Tigress and ‘yun ‘yung sobrang nasaktan ako,” said Rondina after UST absorbed a stinging 17-25, 22-25, 22-25, Game 3 loss to Ateneo de Manila University at the MOA Arena.
The Cebuana hotshot hammered 18 points with 11 digs and seven excellent receptions in her last three sets as a Tigress.
As the final attack of Jules Samonte went off the block for the Lady Eagles’ championship point, Rondina knew there’s no turning back.
No more chance for redemption – at least for her.
“Ayaw ko eh, ayaw ko talaga [umalis], gusto ko na maging Golden Tigresses as champion,” said Rondina. “Sabi ko nga kanina, kinokontra namin ang destiny na para sa Ateneo talaga.”
“Ako sa sarili ko, destiny talaga ng Ateneo kinontra lang namin. It was a good run for us kasi who knows, na maniniwala na mga bata ang kasama ko and partida mga bata pero pag naglaro kakaiba,” added Rondina, who led a rookie-laden Tigresses squad to its first Finals appearance in eight years.
Despite falling short of fulfilling her promise to be remembered as the woman who will bring back the title to Espana, Rondina remained proud of where her sacrifices and efforts led UST to.
“Gusto ko [maalala nila ako] isa sa mga nagpabalik sa Finals kahit hindi korona. Kapag sinabing Sisi Rondina, gusto ko lang na, ‘UST oriented ‘yan, mahal niya ang UST, hindi pinapahiya ‘yung UST.’ Kung gusto lang naman nila akong ma-remember,” said Rondina, a four-time beach volleyball champion and MVP. “Isa rin is mahal na mahal ang UST, mga ganoon. Ayaw ko pang i-let go ang UST.”
Still, the power-hitting player was grateful to her teammates’ effort to give her a chance to play in the Finals.
“Napakasaya ko kasi sila ang nagpatikim sa akin kung ano ang Finals, Finals be like. Kahit anong sasabihin ko hinding-hindi na talaga ako makakabalik, kahit gustuhin ko mang bumalik. Sabi nga sa kanta, may dulo pala ang langit,” Rondina said.
“For me I’m blessed to have them [teammates], kahit na second place kami kasi sobrang unforgettable moment, day and time, sobrang gusto ko kasi na sana pag graduate ko may maiiwan ako sa UST na hindi makakalimutan ng iba,” she said.
Rondina will leave UST without her promised title.
But she surely inspired a new breed of Tigresses and a roaring community.
---Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles