The queen libero is back as a Water Defender this time
Lizlee Ann Gata-Pantone is back after a long absence of one year, leading the floor defense of the Water Defenders in the ongoing PVL Reinforced Conference finals between BaliPure and Pocari Sweat.
There was queen libero Tatan before the wave of today’s exciting and younger floor defenders came along.
Tatan is no other than Lizlee Ann Gata-Pantone, now 28 and mother of a five-year-old boy named Renz. She doesn’t know why her parents started calling her Tatan. The former Lady Falcon, though, has returned to continue dazzling volleyball fans with her excellent receptions and incredible digs and saves.
After a one-year break from playing, Tatan temporarily left her job as a customer service employee at the PLDT branch in Albay to join BaliPure in the Premier Volleyball League as well as prepare, she says, for her firm’s participation in an inter-company volleyball tournament.
She had only two weeks of training before the brand-new PVL began April 30.
“I had no training for one year so it was very difficult for me to come back yet again,” says Tatan in Filipino. “I’m still way off my fighting form. I need to develop muscles again to protect me from injuries so I have to exert extra effort in training.”
Any way you look at her, she didn’t look as if she really lacked training at all. In all her games in the PVL so far, she was great at her floor defense, solid as ever.
In Game 1 of the best-of-three finals when the Lady Warriors paraded fearsome guest player Krystal Rivers for the first time, Tatan calmly dug those of Rivers’ earth-pounding attacks that directly came her way, sending each one of them in a controlled arc toward her setter.
Before and during a tournament, Tatan, as slim and fit as ever, prepares herself by getting longer sleep. She can gorge herself on food without fear of gaining weight, the kind of metabolism women will fight for.
There is a measure of pride in her voice when she says everyone on her side of the family has played or is still playing volleyball, from her father, a farmer, and her mother, an elementary school teacher, down to the five children of whom she is the fourth.
Not one to rely on the recommendation of an older sibling who was a member of the Adamson varsity squad at the time, she traveled all the way from Matnog to Manila to try out in the same school. She passed.
Tatan learned to play volleyball in Grade IV in Matnog Elementary School but got to play for her school only in the next two school years as a libero and in all her years in Sorsogon National High School.
She earned a diploma in Banking & Finance even before she graduated from the UAAP, a proof of how serious she was in her studies.
In 2015 she came back after a long hiatus to suit up for PLDT Home Ultera, helping the team before it disbanded late in the year sweep the Open and Reinforced titles of the V League.
Lizlee Ann Gata-Pantone is blissfully married to a seaman, a fellow Bicolano from Matnog. The sparkle in her eyes show it.