La Salle rookie Gagate survives baptism by fire vs rival Ateneo

JR Isaga
At 6-foot-2, Thea Gagate  impresses with her net defense that proves crucial in La Salle’s late charge


BIG DEBUT. Thea Gagate (center) makes a splash in her first La Salle game. Photo release

MANILA, Philippines – A match between the Ateneo Lady Eagles and the  La Salle Lady Spikers in UAAP women’s volleyball is guaranteed to bring thrills and tension that only those two teams can give. 

Watching a game for fans can already be a daunting mental and emotional experience, so one can only imagine what it might feel like for a player in the middle of it all, most especially a debuting rookie. 

That was exactly the situation La Salle’s Thea Gagate was put in as she played her first UAAP seniors game against the defending champions on Saturday, March 7. 

Honestly, nakakakaba po siya pero like hearing from the dugout pa lang like yung crowd na puro sigaw, nakakakaba po talaga siya,” the 6-foot-2 Gagate said after the game. 

Pero I just relaxed myself na di masyadong iisipin yung crowd kasi ako naman yung naglalaro.” 

(Honestly, I felt nervous, especially hearing the screaming crowd even from the dugout. But I just relaxed myself and didn’t mind the crowd much because I’m the one playing anyway.) 

Despite playing in front of 12,907 raucous fans forming seas of green and blue at the Mall of Asia Arena, the lanky middle blocker survived her baptism by fire after recording 10 points off 5 attacks and 5 blocks as La Salle downed Ateneo in 4 runaway sets. 

Her impressive net defense proved crucial for the Lady Spikers’ late charge, as Queen Eagle Kat Tolentino was held to just 6 points off 5 attacks with 41 attempts. 

[It] feels amazing kasi matagal na pong rivalry yung [Ateneo-La Salle] and pinaghandaan po talaga namin so it’s just an amazing feeling na na-accomplish namin yung goal namin,” said Gagate, a former UAAP juniors standout with NU. 

I think, nagstart talaga [yung pressure] nung in-announce yung lineup. Like nakaka-pressure since mataas yung expectations nila sa akin. Pero, yun nga, di ko na lang masyado iniisip kasi pag inisip ko siya lalo, mas wala akong laro.” 

(It feels amazing because the Ateneo-La Salle rivalry has been around for a long time and we really prepare for it, so it’s just an amazing feeling that we accomplished our goals. I think, the pressure started when they announced the lineups. It’s really pressuring since they have high expectations for me. But yeah, I just didn’t think about it much because the more I think about it, the more I lose my game.)

Now that she has quickly established her role in head coach Ramil de Jesus’ system, Gagate is looking to hone her craft even more as the new season rolls along. 

Feeling ko, ine-expect niya sa akin na marami akong block since I have the height and mas abot ko kaysa sa mga ibang ates namin. So I think, yun yung number one,” she said.

(I feel that he’s expecting me to have a lot of blocks since I have the height my seniors don’t have. So I think that’s number one.)

“Personal expectations? That I contribute a lot in terms of blocking since I’m not that fast when it comes to spiking so I’ll just work on my block.” –