Who inspires Gretchel Soltones? Her dad who once ‘bribed’ for her kakulitan

Barry Viloria on Feb 03, 2017 06:22 PM
Soltones' inspo: Her dad who ‘bribed’ her for her kakulitan
Get to know the San Sebastian star spiker’s inspiration! (Photos courtesy of Soltones)

Behind the San Sebastian Lady Stags’ eliminations sweep that earned them a thrice-to-beat advantage in the current NCAA women’s volleyball season plus a finals appearance in previous seasons is Gretchel Soltones. The star spiker is more keen than ever on keeping those hard hits coming, “para maipadama namin sa kalaban namin na eto na kami, dapat ma-earn namin respect nyo kaya kelangan and talagang kukunin namin ang championship game this season.”

It’s a vow that Soltones, 21, has been wasting no time to keep on her last playing year. The back-to-back MVP’s intelligent game play and on-court charm combo has made her such an NCAA crowd favorite at the arena, which has effortlessly translated to tens of thousands of followers on Twitter.
 
“Last season’s final loss?” says Soltones, a perky young lady off the court but otherwise one who carries a mean streak of competitiveness in her. “Well for me I'm using it now as a motivation para mas ma-push pa ako lalo and especially yung natutunan ko last year’s disappointment.”

You would say that the unstoppable Soltones rather developed an interest in volleyball the old-fashioned way—you know, a daughter of a sporty parent who had enrolled her as a child in various camps until she’d earn a spot on the varsity team. But it was all rather humble—absurd, unconventional—for the collegiate star.

Soltones grew up in a fishing village in Catmon, Cebu. Her parents separated at an early age, leaving her Papa Marvin singlehandedly raising her. Her father didn’t have it easy, taking on two jobs (as a sekyu and a fisherman) to feed their small family. From then on, Soltones grew content with her father just being beside her. She has been told her mother eventually had another family as well.

Hence, Soltones grew up to be a Papa’s girl who would join him jogging regularly to keep fit. Papa Marvin was athletic himself, then playing volleyball at barangay leagues and organizing volleyball games in their hometown.

“Magaling po sya sa volleyball. Actually, sporty si Papa. Di lang volleyball ang alam neto,” she says, citing basketball, bowling, badminton, soccer, and tennis as her father’s other sports. “Yung mga kapatid nya, nag-ba-basketball talaga.”

Sports definitely ran in the Soltones blood so much so that Gretchel herself grew a very random, inexplicable interest in volleyball early on.

“Si Papa ko na nagtulak sakin maglaro talaga ng volleyball,” she begins.

“Actually, nung bata pa ako, lagi ko nang hawak yung bola ng volleyball, which is wala akong idea talaga na yun pala yung bola ng volleyball. So, ayun nasanay na akong hawakan sya hanggang sa point na ayoko na syang bitawan.”

“So, ang ginagawa ni Papa, binibigyan ako piso every time kukunin nya yung bola ng volleyball sa kin. That tells how much I love volleyball nung bata pa talaga ako. Yung as in, tumutulo pa laway ko!” she ends with a laugh.

Soltones played volleyball albeit non-competitively up to the fourth grade. She joined the varsity team a year after.

“Tinawag ako ng teacher ko at pinatayo lang ako sa harap then wala din akong idea bakit tapos sabi ng teacher ko na, ‘Sino ang may gusto sumali ng volleyball sa school natin?’ So, dun nagstart lahat ng hard work ko.”

“Tas nung official na player na ako nung school namin sa elementary, I started as a libero then outside hitter and so on. Hanggang tuloy-tuloy na nung high school (at Pajo National High School, Lapu-Lapu City), setter nalang ang di ko nadaanan na position.”

Soltones saw her life taking a new, busy direction—she had school plus morning and late afternoon volleyball training sessions. She had less time to dote on her one and only Papa, but she still made sure she remained a good daughter at home.

“Pag pagabi na po, late na ako nakakauwi ng bahay. Tapos pagdating ko po sa bahay, maabutan ko si Papa mag assikaso ng pangingisda nya. Ayun, syempre tutulungan ko po sya. So, late na ako nakaka-sleep at kelangan kong maaga magising (for training).”

It didn’t take long until the Stags’ award-raking Roger Gorayeb spotted Soltones at the Palarong Pambansa, inviting her to play in Manila. And so it’s been many years of Soltones living in the city, not being able to see her dad everyday. Still, for the now-certified collegiate sports superstar, volleyball has always been about her father. She never fails to update him about her goings-on in the sport, including her stints in the V-League and with the national team.

“Parati kong hinahanap si Papa,” the Shakey’s V-League Season 13 Open Conference MVP says. She’s also thankful for Tita Dahlia Go and Tita Ayen Salaysay, who helped search for her back in high school; Coach Roger “na nagtyagang magturo sakin at mag-push pa lalo”; and God “especially po kasi parati kong pinagdarasal na hinding hindi ko sa sayangin ang binigay nya sakin na talent.”

Soltones eventually hopes to help her dad out in a major way as soon as she graduates. But the Business Management major says she’s taking her time at school, trying to balance her NCAA career with the rest of her academic requirements. She might be preoccupied, too, in the romance department (if you check her recent posts!) but she says her eyes are still on the prize.

“Syempre po, di naman po maiiwasan na may magkakagusto po talaga sayo. Antay muna sila kasi wala pa po akong napapatunayan sa sarili ko, eh!” she says with a laugh.

“I want to settle for good,pero sana po marami pang opportunities na darating po makamit ko pakonti-konti goals ko—na makabili ng bahay at lupa.”

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