#BFFGoals: UP’s ‘trinity’ comprising Kathy Bersola, Nicole Tiamzon, and Princess Gaiser
Barry Viloria on Mar 22, 2017 10:50 PM
They started from the bottom, now the trio has nowhere to go but up! (Photos taken from Gaiser's, Tiamzon's, and Bersola's Instagram accounts: @piagaiser, @ayyieeeee, and @kb08_)
Seated a row behind the UP coaches’ bench, graduating Lady Maroon Princess Gaiser found herself cheering for her team at their victorious game versus the Adamson Lady Falcons on Wednesday. The libero that she is, her jersey was of the team’s dark colors as opposed to the rest in light. We saw her exiting as soon as the team swept Adamson in three sets, with the Ateneo Lady Eagles—about to play next—welcoming and congratulating her for UP’s recent win from the dugout. The win could have been much sweeter if Gaiser, who wore her glasses and had her hair down in contrast to her signature bun, played. But a twist in her left knee in their March 5 game against NU—an accident that stretchered her off the game and later identified to be an ACL tear—had just stopped her UAAP career altogether.
But Gaiser seemed to have recovered from that. She had just undergone operation last Monday hoping to heal fully in eight months. She could be leaving her crutches at home in a week or two.
“Sinasabi nila Nicole (Tiamzon), they miss me na daw on court!” laughs the Gaiser we later came across for chitchat, appearing to be her usual chipper self. “(Sabi nya), ‘Batch, miss ka na namin talaga!’ (Sabi ko,) ‘Wala tayong magagawa!’”
Tiamzon’s hirit obviously had more hugot from where it came from. Gaiser, Tiamzon, and Kathy Bersola started as batchmates in 2012, joining seven more who eventually left the team as the years went by. The three veterans are all about to finish their degree in Sports Science this semester, and from their daily training to their team building activities here and abroad, have become best friends. It’s no coincidence when we see them posting many photos of them together, commemorating their friendship that spanned a lot of team climbs and falls.
It was Season 75, UP was coming from a winless season in the trio’s freshman year. Fresh from St. Scholastica, Sienna College, and Makati Science High School, respectively, Gaiser, Tiamzon, and Bersola would help boost the team to their first win.
“We were the first batch that first won after a 0-14 season, and it was against UE,” Gaiser proudly recalled the season where they eventually ascended one spot from eighth place. “That was our most memorable win together!”
Season per season saw Diliman rising one step at a time, and on Season 78, UP finally made it to the Final Four. The team has gone through two coaches along the way—Jarod Hubalde and the present head coach Jerry Yee.
Growing next to each other
The journey that was witnessed the Gaiser, Tiamzon, and Bersola’s friendship grow monumentally.
“Close naman kami way, way back, pero mas naging close kami nung fourth year kami,” Gaiser declared. “Madami din sa ‘min na-injure na bumalik, nawala sa first six tapos bumalik, may mga ganong (scenarios). And we’ve always been there for each other for motivation and inspiration.”
It can be recalled that Bersola suffered an ACL injury at the start of Season 77, Tiamzon with a knee injury at the Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference in the same year, and Gaiser also endured a back injury earlier this season plus her recent ACL injury reducing her games this season to just four.
“We’ve all been through the same things,” added Gaiser.
The trio’s friendship not only bore witness to their individual or team’s growth, but that of the sport as well. Women’s volleyball saw an overwhelming rise in recent years, partly to the rivalry between Ateneo and La Salle, one that crossed over from UAAP men’s basketball. The popularity of the players and the event being broadcast on ABS-CBN S+A ultimately led to the rise of women’s volleyball, which transcended later with the advent and/or reinforcement of different leagues like V-League, BVR, PSL, and Spikers’ Turf. Nowadays, volleyball players are of superstar status enough to fill large venues such as the SM MOA Arena and the Araneta Coliseum, attract thousands of followers online, and even grace top-rating TV shows and episodes. Sponsorships have poured in with some brands even forming their own commercial teams set for the aforementioned leagues.
It’s a point in history that Gaiser still finds elating until now, months before she graduates with the other two in June.
“Literal na we (in the team, used to) pay for our jerseys and we borrowed jackets and T-shirts from our alumni. We used to have assorted shoes!” she recalled the lack of sponsors.
“Kaya lagi naming sinasabi sa isa’t-isa, ‘Batch, ang swerte natin naabutan pa natin yung ganito, may pa-water and pa-water jug. Sobrang daming jacket and T-shirt!”
Gaiser, who after our conversation fans welcomed for a photo-op, is also aware of the team and the league’s recent impact on the viewers and enthusiasts.
“There are people there who supported us and still support us now. Nakakataba ng puso kasi they’ve been there since day one, even nung talunan kami.”
The resident ‘ate’s’
After starting off this season at number one, UP eventually fell a few steps off the rankings. The apparent loss of confidence and poor reception in many of their losing games has now put them to a tight fourth spot, following Ateneo, DLSU, and NU. They need to conquer the next three matches to secure a Final Four berth.
Gaiser’s midseason injury has forced Diliman to solely rely on converted libero Justine Dorog. It all led to UP’s anticlimactic run, struggling without the more experienced Gaiser manning the backlines.
What Gaiser thinks she, along with Tiamzon and Bersola, can do now is automatically act as the Ate to the younger ones.
“We always give advice to the younger ones but sometimes they don’t like showing that something’s wrong with them. Sometimes they ask how to improve their game,” she said.
Gaiser still sees a lot of hope in UP becoming this season’s champs, and she says it’s because she just “believes.”
“We have a group chat on Faceook where we talk to each other na kaming tatlo lang ni Kathy and Nicole, we motivate each other. We put like, quotes there, parang ni-re-remind namin sarili namin na we have to fight, it’s our last.”
“Ako, sinasabi ko sa kanila na, ‘Buti nga kayo, naglalaro, ako hindi na, ba’t banyan kayo mag-isip?’”
She condensed her recent, emotional message on Instagram, which she posted following her injury, “I always tell them that I trust my teammates. I know their capabilities and I know they can fight.”
Who will miss whom?
Gaiser isn’t necessarily gloom-ridden over their trio disbanding as their collegiate careers come to a close. UP’s ‘trinity’ may just surprise you when you get to see them again in the semipros, yes, together.
“My original plan was to dedicate one year to volleyball after college and then I’ll study again. We’re planning to join the same team!” she said, excited. “Kami ni Kathy, mag-Medicine kami after. Same kami ng gustong profession.”
Gaiser said there’s no reason for some “sepanx” among the three, as it’s still a long journey ahead. Fans would always see them together at school, going through their readings especially with Bersola who’s “sobrang competitive sa volleyball and sa school,” running to the UP CHK for training in the afternoon.
“Di din namin iniisip (ang graduation) kasi alam pa namin matagal pa,” she said.
“Magkasama naman kami lagi. Pero minsan kasi laging wala si Nicole!”
Is her love life keeping her busier than usual, we dared ask?
She answered, chuckling, “Oo, ganun! Lagi kaming may pictures ni Kathy na ang caption ay ‘MIA, Nicole!’ O kaya, ‘Finally, complete with Nicole!’”