Semana to lead Lady Jet Spikers’ date with history
ABS-CBN Sports on Jul 18, 2016 01:55 PM
Wendy Semana of Philippine Air Force vows to give her all to help the Jet Spikers carve their name in history.
“Patay kung patay!” said Best Setter awardee Wendy Semana moments after the Jet Spikers, victorious in Game 1, lost the next one Saturday in the best-of-three title playoff between Philippine Air Force and Pocari Sweat in the Shakey’s V-League Season 13-Open Conference at Philsports Arena.
The defiant words, meaning fight to death, were in reference to the winner-take-all rubber match on Monday.
“There’s no more tomorrow in Game 3 so we’ve got to give everything we have for the next fight. We need to forget everything, this loss, particularly; we have to start again from scratch.”
Honored as the tournament’s best setter among the individual awardees before Saturday’s game, the diminutive Semana was unbowed even in defeat, her face showing no emotions at all even as the rest of the Lady Jet Spikers seemed broken following their four-set loss to the Lady Warriors that wiped out their one-game lead and forced a third, deciding match set at Philsports Arena as well.
It was a different picture Air Force had painted three days earlier.
Semana was teary-eyed as her teammates rushed to one another in jubilation no sooner than the Lady Jet Spikers had scored the final point that gave them Game 1 on Wednesday. When the ABS-CBN staff edged toward them to fetch her for interview as Player of the Game, she was immediately borne in the air amid deafening cheers.
It doesn’t always happen that a setter like Semana is chosen best player of a game, but it was a testimony to her exceptional skills that it was already her second time to be so honored in this season’s Open Conference.
Both Semana and her new coach, Jasper Jimenez, were still breathless and flushed with joy when they faced the TV camera, each already seized by the significance of the moment. Coming from behind to win the opener of the championship playoff in five nail-biting sets, 17-25, 25-20, 15-25, 26-24, 15-11, has put the Lady Jet Spikers on the threshold of history in this, their first ever finals appearance in any V-League conference.
As much as coach Jimenez lavishes praises on his setter for leading and keeping the team together each game, Semana is returning the full credit to their new mentor’s style of coaching, describing it in an earlier interview as cool, jolly and inspiring.
“We have nothing but utmost respect for and good vibes toward coach Jasper. He’s a cool operator, he never shouts at us, much less shames us during actual games. He carries his jolliness as a person to the game and it rubs off on us.”
Small but terrible
Semana may only be five-foot-three, but the usually quiet setter from Pampanga stands six feet tall with her brilliancy and cold efficiency each time she takes to the court.
Already 30-years old, she does not only convert not-so-good service receptions into excellent sets; she can also attack from the net with the accuracy of a regular spiker. This last she is able to do because she jumps as high as or higher than the taller attackers she is setting the ball for. She does not know how to be nervous when competing even against stronger and taller teams.
Until Game 1 of the finals, all she ever felt was rising excitement and eagerness to start to do what she said was a “battle to the max” against the team whose perfect run in the eliminations Air Force had stopped and whose large number of loudly cheering, clappers-wielding fans and supporters greatly outnumber those of her side.
Long overshadowed by their male counterparts in the Air Force, already a winner of their own best-of-three title playoff with Cignal in the Spikers’ Turf Season 2 Open Conference, Semana and the rest of the championship-hungry Lady Jet Spikers had made a pact to go all out for the V-League Season 13-Open Conference crown.
An added inspiration for them is their eagerness to do it as well for their new coach, the last one in a series of coaches who succeeded to bring the Air Force women to a V-League finals.
But coach Jimenez, two-time national player and a former member of the PAF men’s squad coaching staff, was quick to pass on the credit to Col. Randy Tibayan.
“Upon my takeover, Col. Tibayan immediately instituted several changes in the system of managing, handling, and training the team, particularly in the areas of discipline. I’m only too glad that the girls have quickly adapted to these changes and in a short time were able to raise the level of their game. And we are reaping the results now. We are in our first ever V-League finals.”
Taught by the master
Coach Jimenez said he already feels good at the way everyone on the team has leveled up through diligent and quality training. He particularly cites Davao recruits Jocemer Tapic and Angel Mae Antipuesto, both middle blockers, May Ann Pantino, Iari Yongco, Jennifer Manzano, Yna Papa, the all-round Camille Abanto, and liberos Mae Crisostomo and Mary Ann Balmaceda as now “providing strong support” for the consistently reliable trio of Semana, Judy Ann Caballejo, and Joy Cases.
Semana is best remembered for when on her last playing year for Far Eastern University, she, playing the dual roles of setter and spiker, teamed up with the now popular Rachel Ann Dacquis and Abanto to hand the Lady Tamaraws what proved to be their last UAAP championship.
Recruited from Holy Angel University in Pampanga, she started training as a converted setter in the summer following her freshman year in FEU under the then Philippines’ No. 1 setter Vangie de Jesus for a year. But it was not until her junior and senior years that she was utilized as a setter-spiker.
The youngest of three children of an entrepreneur-couple left her alma mater with a coveted UAAP title and a degree in Sports & Recreation Management to which she fervently wishes to add Philippine Air Force’s first title ever in Shakey’s V-League.