MANILA, Philippines – On court, La Salle rookie Jolina dela Cruz makes volleyball fans do a double take.
Sporting the same No. 8 jersey and trademark short half-ponytail as Ara Galang, Dela Cruz looks like a younger version of the former Lady Spikers star.
But it wasn’t just the similarities that Dela Cruz had fans talking. The 19-year-old also delivered in a pressure-packed debut as La Salled turned back rival Ateneo in a blockbuster UAAP women’s volleyball showdown.
“Siyempre hindi naman madali kalabanin yung Ateneo. Yung mindset po namin na mag-eenjoy kami, maglalaro kami nang maayos, hindi kami prinepressure ng mga ate,” said Dela Cruz.
(Of course, it’s not easy going against Ateneo. Our mindset is that we’ll just enjoy, we’ll play well, and there’s no pressure from the veterans.)
The Bulacan native earned a starting spot and quickly proved she deserved it by unloading 11 points behind topscorer Desiree Cheng.
Dela Cruz started playing volleyball when she was in Grade 4, but only got to focus on volleyball in high school when she started studying at the Academia de San Lorenzo.
Many took notice of Dela Cruz when she played for Region 3 in the Palarong Pambansa, and soon, she suited up for the country’s team representative in the 9th ASEAN School Games in Singapore and also got invited to join La Salle’s stellar volleyball program under 11-time UAAP champion coach Ramil de Jesus.
“Siyempre La Salle, home of the champions, na parang sobrang grabe taas na standard nito, kakayanin ko ba ito? Pero hindi lang nila ako na-recruit na sabihin nila na maglalaro lang ako dito. Una po sinabi sa akin ay mag-aral ako dito (La Salle),” said the opposite spiker.
(Of course La Salle is the home of the champions, the standards are really high, so I asked myself – can I really do it? But they didn’t recruit me just to play in the UAAP. They told me first that I should study here in La Salle.)
But perhaps, the promising spiker shouldn’t worry. De Jesus has been known to mold well-rounded champions. And in a matter of time, a rising star like Dela Cruz might just be one of them. – Rappler.com