Cheng and Gopico: Rivals but not enemies

Jan Carlo Gavile
Des Cheng and Ana Gopico are bitter rivals on court. But off it, they're the best of friends.

SISTERS. Cheng and Gopico have formed a bond in the Palaro. Photo by Rappler/Roy Secretario

DUMAGUETE CITY, Philippines — Rivals but not enemies.

Desiree Cheng and Ana Gopico are probably two of the most sought-after graduating high school players of this batch. 

Both coming from successful programs in Manila and Makati, Cheng and Gopico have been huge names in the volleyball scene even before they first step foot at the Arena.

Rivals, they truly are, as the two have met each other in fierce battles during their high school years, delivering the strongest attacks and even talking trash at one another in the secondary school volleyball circuit.

Come June, Cheng and Gopico take their rivalry to a whole new level — the UAAP — as Cheng would be joining three-peat champs De La Salle University while Gopico has opted to reinforce crowd favorite Ateneo de Manila University.

But before these talented youngsters showcase their wares in the big league, the two have forged something that definitely goes beyond kills, blocks and digs: friendship.

“The rivalry only happens during games,” Cheng, the powerful hitter from Hope Christian High School, said. “But since we always see each other a lot, we eventually became friends. Ana is very kind.”

Like a family

And while they were friends before the Palaro, the country’s biggest sporting spectacle drew them even closer, with Gopico going as far as saying that Cheng is like a sister to her.

“Des is like a sister,” the Colegio San Agustin standout shared. “Although we only got to know each other for a short period of time, we just really clicked and became close.”

FAMILY. The NCR team was like a family, says Cheng. Photo by Rappler/Roy Secretario.

Bringing together high school rivals proved to be a brilliant move for NCR coach Jerry Yee, who handled Cheng at Hope and will be coaching University of the Philippines in Season 76.

“We are like a family at Hope,” Cheng added. “That’s why when Ana started training with us, she became a part of that family, too.”

Getting used to playing with a team she went up against time and time again was a different feeling for Gopico. But the 2012 Palaro MVP took it as an opportunity to learn more.

“I feel happy because I was able to experience having her as a teammate,” she quipped. “It has always been us against each other.” 

What happens on the court, stays on the court

In a few months’ time, Gopico and Cheng would be delivering the hardest of attacks against one another anew in the UAAP. 

But unlike most sports rivals, the two promise that what happens on the court stays on the court.

“It’s just a game,” Cheng, who was named the 2013 Palaro MVP, said. “After it, we will still be friends and there will be no hard feelings.”

Gopico couldn’t agree more.

“Maybe we will be rivals forever,” she said. “But we are more friends than rivals.”

It might be hard to believe that bitter protagonists on the volleyball hardwood could be very good buddies off it. 

However, after building friendship in the Palarong Pambansa, both Gopico and Cheng can proudly say that they may be rivals, but they definitely are not enemies. –

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