Frances Molina: From Nueva Ecija to the world
Mark Escarlote on Jul 25, 2016 11:40 AM
From a late bloomer in the sport, Frances Molina is now one of Philippine volleyball's faces in the world club stage.
Frances Xinia Molina sat on the bleacher with her Petron teammates to watch the 2015 Philippine Superliga All-Filipino match between RC Cola-Army and F2 Logistics.
Little did she know that she was about to receive a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to showcase her skills on the world stage.
The former San Beda Lady Red Spiker was handed the sixth golden ticket to the 2016 FIVB Women’s Club World Championship Sunday to join her Tri-Activ Spikers teammate Jen Reyes, Rachel Anne Daquis and Jovelyn Gonzaga of RC Cola-Army, Jaja Santiago of Foton and Kim Fajardo of F2 Logistics in the first-ever edition of the event in Southeast Asia.
Her inclusion to the team she said came as a surprise.
In fact, Molina was having a conversation with her mother, Vherna Harding, who is already estranged from her father Pedro Molina and is now married to a British engineering consultant based in India, before the announcement was made.
“Nag-Facetime kami ng Mama ko and sinabi ko nga na manonood kami ng game. So during nanood kami ng Cignal and Generika ka-Facetime ko siya,” Molina said of her online video call. “Tapos sabi niya, “O seven ang kailangan, five na ang nandoon.” Sabi ko, “Oo nga Ma pero huwag tayong umasa.” Kasi maraming nag-tryout para sa World sabi ko.”
Then, PSL president Ramon “Tats” Suzara called her name – an announcement nobody expected as all anticipated the sixth golden ticket winner to come from teams scheduled to face off on that playdate.
“Hindi naman natin ini-expect ‘yan kasi malay natin di ba na in-expect mo pa tapos hindi naman ikaw ang makukuha,” the 21-year-old Molina said.
Looking back, Molina couldn’t help but be thankful that she decided to stay in the country and pursue her passion for volleyball instead of joining her mom abroad.
“Sobrang worth it naman talaga na nag-stay ako,” she said. “At saka para sa age ko, sa katulad ko siguro medyo malaking achievement ito para sa akin as in malaking achievement.”
From the track oval to the volleyball court
Growing up in the town of Aliaga before moving to Nueva Ecija’s capital in Cabanatuan when she was in high school, Molina never showed interest in volleyball.
She frequently accompanied her father to track and field events in the province and naturally, Molina was then more inclined to join sprint events on the oval.
“Hindi po (talaga ako dati interesado sa volleyball) kasi po talagang track and field ako,” said the 5-foot-10 outside hitter. “’Yung daddy ko sa athletics siya nagwo-work dati. Siya ‘yung bumabaril sa mga takbuhan. Tapos ang mga laro niya hindi ball games.”
“Nag-start ako na ganoon lang patakbo-takbo, sinasabihan lang ako ng Daddy ko na sumali ka d’yan para may sports ka,” she added.
But fate knows how to make things fall into place.
Back in 2008, Cabanatuan needed a tall player to beef up the city’s secondary girls’ volleyball team for the Central Luzon Regional Athletics Association.
And Molina who was then starting to play volleyball in her last year in College of Immaculate Conception seemed to be a perfect fit.
“Late na ako nag-start mag-volleyball mga fourth year high school,” she recalled.
“Kinuha lang ako kasi matangkad daw ako para mag-block-block doon sa CLRAA tapos may mga nag-scouting. Nagkataon na ang mga coach ng Beda (George Sucaldito and Nemecio Gavino) dati sila ang nag-handle ng training ng Cabanatuan team. Sila ang nag-scout sa akin and dinala nila ako rito (sa Manila).”
“College na lang ako nag-start mag-training (sa volleyball),” Molina continued.
Then Lady Red Spikers head coach Sucaldito turned the unpolished gem in Molina into one of San Beda’s top hitter and scorer.
“Ang basic (ng volleyball) lang talaga ang alam ko,” said Molina. “Talagang noong college ko lang ako binugbog sa training at pinalakas.”
With scoring partner Jannine Marciano, the Mendiola-based squad was able to enter the Final Four in Season 87 in her sophomore year.
The team struggled the following year but in Season 89, San Beda made great strides for chance to return in the Final Four, opening the tournament with five straight victories only to see everything go down the drain with Molina suffering a season-ending injury.
“Three and a half years lang ako naglaro kasi na-injure ako dati sa shin (stress fracture),” said Molina, who won back-to-back NCAA Best Blocker awards in Season 87 and 88.
Making a name for herself
After recovering from her injury, Molina together with Marciano was tapped by Philippine National Police to lead the team in the V-League.
The squad didn’t get the result it wanted but it became the stage for Molina to showcase her talents that didn’t go unnoticed.
Petron saw the potential in Molina and recruited her to play for the club in the PSL.
Working with established veterans Rachel Anne Daquis, Dindin Santiago-Manabat, Abigail Marano and libero Jen Reyes, Molina flourished and was named 2nd Best Outside Hitter when Petron swept the 2015 All-Filipino Conference.
The PSL also gave Molina a chance to play abroad as Petron participated in last year’s Asian Volleyball Confederation Asian Club Championship in Vietnam and was a member of the PSL All-Star team in the Thai-Denmark Super League in Thailand despite having a shoulder injury.
On the world stage
After a long deliberation among PSL coaches on players that were invited to join the tryout, Molina was chosen to play in the World Club Championship alongside six other top local players and seven foreign reinforcements.
The PSL All-Star team will battle Rexona Ades of Brazil, Volero Zurich of Switzerland, Pomi Casalmaggiore of Italy, Hisamitsu Springs of Japan, Bangkok Glass of Thailand and VakifBank and Eczacibasi VitrA of Turkey.
“Sobrang malaking privilege kasi iba na ito and world na talaga at nandyan ang mga malalakas na players talaga,” said Molina. “Hindi ko talaga ma-explain kasi malaking liga ito at kailangang paghandaan. Malaking preparation ang dapat kong paghandaan sa sarili ko rin siyempre.”
The seventh and last recipient of the golden ticket will be named on Thursday when the league goes on tour in La Salle-Lipa in Batangas.
In the tournament slated from October 18 to 23 at the MOA Arena in Pasay City, Molina said that she will give her all to contribute for the team may it be inside or outside the playing court.
“Mako-contribute ko sa team ‘yung power na mayroon ako sa palo,” she said. “Dumedepensa rin naman ako and then ‘yung motivation na rin sa mga kasama ko kasi makakatulong ako sa pag-cheer sa kanila.”
Now part of the team that will play against the world best club teams and players, Molina said that she’s filled with mixed emotions.
“Sobrang masaya kasi hindi ko ini-expect pero medyo pressure kasi kailangang magpakita ka rin na deserve mo ‘yung nakuha mo,” said Molina. “Siyempre nandyan ang mga tao to look din.”
“’Yung iba hindi naman natin alam na judgmental, may mga taong naniniwala rin kaya kailangan talagang magpakita ka na deserve ko ang nakuha ko,” she added.
Molina knows that people will doubt her capabilities but she’s just shaking it off.
“Marami ng nagbaba-bash sa akin kasi kailangan nila na ang mga idol nila ang mapasok pero siyempre sa akin napunta. So sorry,” Molina said with smile.
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