UAAP Season 82: UST Tigresses keeping the fire burning post-Sisi Rondina era
Mark Escarlote on Feb 12, 2020 07:35 PM
(Photo: Josh Albelda)
Sisi Rondina is incomparable.
However, University of Sto. Tomas is not looking for the next Rondina. What Tigresses head coach Kungfu Reyes wants this UAAP Season 82 is a new leader who will step up to bear the torch left by the reigning Most Valuable Player.
“Wala namang pwedeng pumalit kay Sisi,” said Reyes of the heart and soul of UST’s runner-up run last year. “Pero yung spot na pwedeng mag-take over, kung sino namang maga-act as a leader [ang hanap namin].”
This is the challenge of Reyes to his wards as they prepare for another shot at the throne that has been elusive to the Espana-based squad since the Tigresses won it all a decade ago.
But the mentor is confident that the holdovers and even the incoming Tigresses share the same ferocity, passion and dedication of Rondina. So it won’t be hard finding the next UST leader.
“‘Yung team namin last year is very young ngayon yung naiwan ni Sisi, nahawaan niya yung mga bata ganun din ‘yung mga seniors namin ngayon,” said Reyes, who is also the national women’s volleyball team assistant coach.
Ready to prove that they can sustain if not surpass their achievements last year are key holdovers Season 81 Rookie of the Year and go-to-player Eya Laure, team captain Alina Bicar, Caitlyn Viray, Kecelyn Galdones and Ysa Jimenez.
Eya Laure, who suited up for the national team in the 30th Southeast Asian Games, will reunite with sister EJ, who is back after a two-year hiatus. The elder Laure’s presence added another scoring option for the Tigresses with 6-foot-2 Fil-Italian Milena Alessandrini still recovering from a knee injury she sustained last year.
Also a welcome addition for UST is rookie Imee Hernandez, who showed a lot of promise in the Tigresses’ runner-up finish in the Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference.
As part of their preparation, UST held training camps in Baguio and Taiwan that yielded favorable results.
But having experienced what it was to play in the biggest stage of the tournament, according to Reyes, is their biggest advantage this year and he is confident that this time UST is fully equipped for another shot at the championship.
“Hindi namin kaya ituro ‘yung nangyari last year in front of 21,000 spectators, [yung] spotlight, camera sa training,” he said. “’Yung experience na ‘yung madadala namin as a motivation.”
“Isang malaking bagay para sa mga bata towards [Season] 82 medyo naka-experience na kahit papaano,” added Reyes.
EYES ON YOU:
After a stellar rookie season that saw her average 16.4 points per game and become the most efficient hitter with 35.90% success rate in attacks, Eya Laure’s second run for the black and gold puts her on the spotlight as the face of UST.
Her resume which include valuable experience playing for the tricolors in different international tournaments and work on improving her craft will be her biggest advantage – and pressure – as she tries to lead the Tigresses to follow to their impressive run last season.
“Ang mindset ko this coming season ay matulangan ang teammates ko, matulungan ang team na ilabas nila ang best performance nila every game,” said Laure. “Maglalaro ako ng best ko.”
But Eya stresses that this season is not just about her but about how the Tigresses will work as one to complete an unfinished business last season.
“Naniniwala kasi kami sa team effort. Hindi kakayanin ng isa, dalawa o kahit tatlo nga eh. Yung nagdala sa amin sa Finals is yung team effort,” said Laure.
Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles