One more refreshing face lights up the volleyball firmament
ABS-CBN Sports on Nov 05, 2016 02:29 AM
Sweet and talented Shola Alvarez is now living the time of her life as a member of Pocari Sweat, winner of the 2016 Shakey’s V-League Open Conference. It doesn’t matter if she doesn’t get any playing time in most games or gets to play for no longer than a few minutes only in some in the ongoing Reinforced Conference. “What matters is that I am now a part of a champion team and competing in my second V-League tournament in one year. It doesn’t get any better than this. I’m really, really very happy right now.”
Little did Shola Alvarez, 19, of Jose Rizal University, know that the phone call she was to entertain one late September night would put her on the road to some more fame in local women’s volleyball, not outright celebrityhood, certainly, but a semblance of it, maybe.
She smiled upon reading the name of the caller on the screen of her cellphone; it came from the city of Iriga in the Bicol Region, from Bombitz, her teammate on Team Iriga which debuted this year in the Shakey’s V-League Season 13-Open Conference won by fellow newbie Pocari Sweat.
The caller was bearing a message for her from Sports Vision, which was scrambling at the time to get her phone number. Bombitz said she was to call pronto someone from the organizing group behind the now immensely popular V-League.
She immediately rang the number passed on to her. She introduced herself. The voice on the other end, a woman’s, asked if she was interested in joining Pocari Sweat. She was floored.
Events were swiftly set in motion. JRU Sports Director Efren Supan met with a representative from Pocari Sweat on her behalf, and before she knew it, she’s already a member, albeit an eleventh-hour recruit, of a champion squad boasting of such celebrities as Michelle Gumabao, Melissa Gohing, and Myla Pablo.
“I know I was recruited just to complete the Lady Warriors’ lineup, but who cares anyway. I was told not to expect to get playing time and I was like already thinking ahead of being a member of a champion team in the company of my idols in women’s volleyball,” said the fourth year Business Management student before Pocari subdued UniGames winner University of Santo Tomas in four sets, 25-16, 25-23, 22-25, 25-14, on Nov. 2 to clinch top seed billing after the one-round, eight-team preliminary play.
“I would have accepted the once-in-a-lifetime offer no matter what conditions were laid down before me. What matters is that I am now a part of a champion team and competing in my second V-League tournament in one year. It doesn’t get any better than this. I’m really, really very happy right now.”
And Shola’s team is favored not only to get to the finals, but to snag the championship as well. Not all collegiate players are as lucky and blessed as this sweet, young thing from Mandaluyong, the eldest of six children born to parents who in their college years had played varsity basketball and volleyball in Jose Fabella Memorial School.
In Pocari’s seven matches in the elimination, she sat out two and played in five either to rest a spiker or specifically to give her playing time late in the closing set when victory for the Lady Warriors was already a foregone conclusion.
Exuberant cheers from teammates and fans greeted her the first time she stepped onto the court against winless Philippine Coast Guard in Pocari’s second game. She was fielded in the windup of the third set, served an ace and scored next on a soft spike to officially join the V-League scoreboard with two points. She would score another point in the Lady Warriors’ fifth qualifying game against Team Laoag.
Almost unnoticed in the NCAA where she has since her rookie year started for the Lady Bombers, Shola burst into the national volleyball consciousness when she was played for Team Iriga for the Open Conference this year. Her dad, she said, traces his roots in Masbate.
The live national TV coverage by ABS-CBN Sports + Action channel gave her a measure of fame, she and Bombitz being the Lady Oragons’ hard-battling 1-2 punch.
She made her parents and JRU proud with her more than creditable showing in the 2016 Open Conference.
“Now they are even prouder of me, seeing me on TV suiting up for a champion team and given playing time no matter how short or even if it was to serve only.”
Now her recognition factor has risen several notches higher. Even at malls, fans stop her for selfies or autographs or both. She always has a ready genuine smile for them. She is loving it all, much more so when she’s with her Pocari teammates in full battle gears, whether she’s given playing minutes or not.