Hesitant setter: Kim Fajardo's journey

Mark Escarlote on May 03, 2016 08:08 PM
Hesitant setter: Kim Fajardo's journey
Siguro (naging blessing na napilit akong mag-set) kasi kahit ayoko talaga kinailangan kong gawin e -- Fajardo

ABS-CBN Sports asked the graduating players of De La Salle to give a short message to their teammates who will still see action next year during a live online session Monday two days after the Lady Spikers snatched the 78th UAAP women’s volleyball title.

Libero Dawn Macandili threw her neck pillow with a panda design at team captain Kim Fajardo.

“Ssshh! Hindi ka kasama d’yan tumigil ka,” said Macandili.

Fajardo, who orchestrated the offense of DLSU on her way to winning the Best Setter award, kept mum on her decision if she will still play in Season 79.

She still has a year of eligibility after playing for the green and white for four years.

The 22-year-old setter joined the DLSU line-up a year later than her former University of Sto. Tomas high school teammate Alyssa Valdez, who closed her colorful career for Ateneo with a series-decider loss to bitter rival Lady Spikers.

Many are asking why?

They graduated in high school together, entered their respective schools in the same year, but why didn’t they play in their rookie year during the same season.  

Fajardo said she made a big mistake while starting her collegiate career.    

“Basta noong residency year namin ‘di ba bawal maglaro sa ibang ano (liga)? Kapag residency ka, stay ka lang, doon ka lang sa school wala kang ibang lalaruan,” she told ABS-CBN Sports.

“E mayroon akong isang game na nalaruan sa ibang, nakalimutan ko na basta merong isang ligang labas,” Fajardo continued. “E bawal ‘yun so just to be sure (na walang problems sa eligibility) hindi na nila ako pinalaro kaya naging dalawang taon ako sa residency. Kaya hindi kami sabay ni Alyssa.”


Reluctant playmaker

Fajardo is known for her heady playmaking.

She can make a bad first ball look good for an attacker in DLSU’s offensive piece. She can outwit the defense with a simple drop or tap of the ball.

She’s was recognized to be the best in her craft twice in the last three years. 

But the setter, who averaged 12.5 excellent sets per frame in the Finals, said that being a playmaker is not the position she wanted to play before.

It was a role forced by necessity.

“Na-convert lang ako noong high school,” recalled Fajardo, who together with Valdez were recruited by then UST high school girls team mentor Francis Vicente and assistant coach Kungfu Reyes while the duo were playing in the 2005 Palarong Pambansa for CALABARZON.

Fajardo was a spiker then just like the dangerous and powerful but raw Valdez when she was recruited.

Actually, Fajardo added that she never thought that she will go this far in volleyball considering that she slowed down from the sport to concentrate on her studies.

“Noong Grade 6 kasi hindi na ako naglaro kasi sa school, kailangang focus muna,” she said. “Grade 5 pa lang kasi noon nung na-recruit kami (ni Alyssa) nina coach Francis at coach Kungfu."

But the offer remained and some good connections gave Fajardo a chance to leave Calatagan, Batangas for the busy city of Manila.

“E si coach Kungfu kilala ang tito ko (Albert Alano) kasi noon athlete din yun, teammate ni coach Kungfu noong Palaro days niya,” said Fajardo of his uncle, who played in his high school days for Mapua in the NCAA.

As part of the Junior Tigresses, she hoped to play the same position as Valdez. 

But Vicente had other plans.

“Ang setter lang namin noon kasi si ate Rhea Dimaculangan. E pa-graduate na siya noon, first year pa ako noon, eh walang magse-set so sino na?” Fajardo added.

She was hesitant.

“Hindi ako ganoon kagaling pumitik pa. Hindi ako marunong talaga,” she said. “Ewan ko ba kay coach (Francis Vicente) noon kung ano ba ang nakita niya sa akin kung bakit ako ang pinag-set?”

After all, she’s not trained to set the ball. Fajardo’s a hitter, an attacker. She was supposed to be Valdez’s scoring partner.

“Pero kasi noong unang sinabi niya (Vicente) sa akin na mag-set ako, ayoko, kasi bata pa ako noon na gusto ko parati na, “Yes ako ang naka-point” yung parang ganoong feeling. Na-siyempre ako ang naka-point,” Fajardo said.

A setter’s role is not a glamorous job.  

“E ang setter non-scoring position naman ‘yun. Ang pag-iisip ko ganoon pa,” she said.

But because of necessity, she had to do it. Fajardo embraced it. 

“Pero habang tumatagal ng tumatagal nakikita ko na parang kulang kami ah, hindi pwedeng hindi ako mag-step up, na hindi ko gustuhin,” Fajardo continued.

“So ako ginusto ko talaga (na maging setter). Kasi kung gugustuhin mo naman ang isang bagay, kahit gaano kahirap ‘yan kung gusto mong pag-aralan darating talaga yan e, mapupunta ka roon,” she said. “Saka hindi mo mapapansin na isa ka na pala sa taong magagaling sa ganito.”

“Siguro (naging blessing na napilit akong mag-set) kasi kahit ayoko talaga kinailangan kong gawin e. Ayoko talaga pero ‘yun na ‘yun.”

Why wouldn’t Fajardo love a setter’s role, she helped UST collect three straight title from Season 70 to 72.


Leading the attack to team leader

DLSU head coach Ramil De Jesus trusted Fajardo to skipper the Lady Spikers in Season 78 with the goal of getting back the proud team’s lost glory after two years of futility against Valdez and the Lady Eagles.

It was a hard task for a person to lead a team that’s coming off a severe beating the year before and plagued by injuries.

Top hitter Ara Galang’s condition was then a concern after she suffered an ACL injury before the end of Season 77, Desiree Cheng was also out because of a knee injury she sustained late last year and the team’s morale could be a problem, but Fajardo was undaunted.

With her on court leadership, the Lady Spikers were able to find the swag and confidence that made them champions three straight times before Ateneo won the title in the last two years.  

Fajardo even contributed points when needed.

“‘Yung mga attacks ko sa game siguro nasa isip ko talaga na kailangan kong maka-point. ‘Yung mindset ko talaga, ‘kailangang ma-kill ko ‘to.’ Pampataas ng morale sa mga teammates ko kasi ‘yun nga nakikita ko sila na kapag ako ang nakaka-point via spike nabu-boost sila. Na parang, “Wow ‘yung setter namin nakaka-spike,’” she said. 

Fajardo wanted to pump up her teammates and she did a good job at it.

“Gusto ko kasing nakikita sila na nagi-enjoy. Na parang gusto ko rin sabihin sa kanila sabihin na, “Ay gusto ko rin ma-feel na nagla-lighten up yung feeling nila kapag ganoon. Na hindi lang ako nagsi-set ng ganyan lang, na marami pa akong kayang gawin, na gusto kong ma-maximize ang kakayahan ko.”

Fajardo’s skills as a setter got the attention of Est Cola-Thailand coach Chamnan Dokmai, whose squad was defeated by DLSU in five sets in a tune up match.

The Thai coach commented that Fajardo’s playmaking smarts make the game easy for DLSU.

But Fajardo didn’t take the compliment seriously as she wanted to concentrate that time on the task of taking the crown.

“Noong time kasi na ‘yun, patapos na ang elims so hindi ko siya iniisip kasi baka ma-distract ako ng mga ganoong bagay. Para kasi sa akin pressure ‘yun,” said Fajardo. “Para kasing international coach na sinabihan ka ng ganoon tapos maglalaro ka sa UAAP, parang iba yung ini-expect sa’yo ng mga tao kapag ganoon siyempre.”

“Hindi ko siya iniisip noong time na ‘yun pero ngayon ay ‘Oo nga!’” the setter added. “Parang sinabi rin sa akin ni coach (De Jesus) noon na Kim Fajardo ka, hindi ‘‘yan lang’. Hindi ka ‘lang’. Siguro ‘yun din ang naging motivation ko para siguro humarap at manalo sa championship.”

Fajardo rallied her team to a ninth title overall.

But the hanging question remains: Will Fajardo be back next year?

She has the answer.

Fajardo just doesn’t want to reveal it yet.





Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles

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