Kat Tolentino: How she ended up as a Lady Eagle
Mark Escarlote on Jun 22, 2020 07:19 PM
(Photo: Arvin Lim)
Suffering an injury is a dreadful experience for any athlete.
What more if it’s a career-threatening one?
Kat Tolentino went through three harrowing knee injuries in a span of three years – two of those she suffered while in Canada.
But those misfortunes played a big role in convincing Tolentino to fly to the Philippines and eventually become one of the most recognized names in collegiate volleyball.
The Ateneo de Manila University volleyball star in an interview on So She Did podcast shared how she ended up in the Lady Eagles' nest.
“It was actually a long story but basically, when I was in Grade 11, my brother was out there in the Philippines already, he was playing basketball for Ateneo and I was just visiting him for vacation,” said Kat, sister of former Blue Eagle Vince.
The Ateneo volleyball management that time already knew who the 6-foot-2 spiker was and she was invited to train with the then Roger Gorayeb-mentored Lady Eagles.
“I actually don’t even have the shoes at that time or any like knee pads,” she recalled. “So I have to borrow from my cousin and then I borrowed knee pads from the men’s team.”
She played with the team but it didn’t convince her to follow the footsteps of her brother, living alone in a tropical country that is thousand of miles away from home.
“For me I was in Grade 11 at that time and I didn’t really think like, ‘Oh I want to go to the Philippines’. In fact, I was kind of confused why my brother moved there,” said Tolentino, who is currently back in Canada after the cancellation of the UAAP Season 82 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“I think, it’s just crazy because at that time, I was getting mad at my mom because I was like, ‘Why are you making me move to the Philippines?’ I was only like Grade 11,” she added.
Tolentino that time wasn’t ready to get out of her comfort zone. Naturally, she chose to stay in the Great White North.
Tolentino was in University of Canada when she suffered her second left anterior cruciate ligament injury in 2014, a year after her first.
“I went to University in Canada for one year and I don’t know if you know that I had three ACL injuries. So the second ACL injury, I was in University in Canada but I just decided after I got the second one in Canada, I needed change and I wanted to experience something different,” she said.
Tolentino thought a new environment might change her fortune.
Luckily, the Lady Eagles’ door remained open.
“Ateneo contacted me when they heard I got injured again,” she said. “They said that they’re still willing to help me and wanted to help me with my rehab and therapy and they had a very good surgeon. So yeah, they just called up and I ended up there.”
The hype was high for the Fil-Canadian when she finally got the chance to don the blue and white when the then two-time UAAP champion Ateneo joined the now defunct Shakey’s V-League Collegiate Conference in July 2015.
But the injury bug followed her to the Philippines and once again bit Tolentino hard.
The hitter suffered a right ACL injury while warming up and had to undergo another operation and months of rehabilitation. She was forced to miss UAAP Season 78 and watched helplessly from the sidelines as archrival De La Salle University dethroned the Lady Eagles.
After months of therapy, Tolentino finally made her official debut in the UAAP in Season 79 in 2017 – a victorious welcome over University of Sto. Tomas.
Ateneo fell short in the Finals that year.
The following season, the Lady Eagles missed the championship entirely for the first time in six years.
In Season 81, Tolentino helped Ateneo capture its third title.
She announced after winning the crown that she’s leaving the team but decided to make a return for a swan song this year.
Unfortunately, the league cancelled the tournament after just four playdates.
Asked if she’ll be back for another tour of duty if given the chance, Tolentino admitted that she’s still thinking about it.
“I think for me it’s not something I can decide now,” she said. “I would be thankful if they would allow me to go back but I can’t say anything right now.”
Looking back, Tolentino would like to think that her second ACL injury brought her to Ateneo.
It wasn’t the best of situation to be in to make a life-changing decision but it in the end it turned out just fine.
Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles