Palaro alums Gequillana, Morado to present athletes: Do your best
MANILA, Philippines - Even before landing at Ateneo de Manila University and bagging glory in the UAAP Season 76 women's volleyball tournament, Lady Eagles' rookies Kim Gequillana and Jia Morado began trekking for volleyball supremacy at the Palarong Pambansa.
Both newcomers for the Katipunan-based spikers, Gequillana and Morado used their brilliant run in the Palarong Pambansa to make it to the UAAP volleyball wars and deliver when it mattered the most.
Before donning the blue and white, Gequillana of St. John's Institute in Bacolod tag-teamed with wunderkind Bernadeth Pons to lead the Western Visayas secondary girls volleyball squad to the semifinals of last year's Palaro in Dumaguete City.
The high-flying outside hitter then brought her talents to Katipunan and although seldolmy used in the early stages of the UAAP tournament, Gequillana had quality exposure in the finals, particularly in the third set of Game 2 when Ateneo badly needed someone to score.
De La Salle University won that match but the Lady Eagles went on to take crown days after.
She says the Palaro experience is vital in developing key skills. From her first championship with the Lady Eagles, Gequillana has earned a spot in Ateneo's regular rotation in the on-going Shakey's V-League first conference.
"Palaro helped me because it is the first step. This is where you get exposure and I gained experience from it. When I entered Ateneo, I already know how to handle pressure," Gequillana told Rappler.
No pressure for cool and calm Morado
Winning championships is nothing new to Ateneo setter Jia Morado, who led the National Capital Region volleybelles to a championship in the 2012 edition in Lingayen, Pangasinan.
Morado's presence of mind and accuracy in the skill of setting has already earned her a Best Setter award in that Palaro edition; and just in her rookie UAAP season two years after, Morado narrowly missed the Best Setter award, only yielding it to La Salle's Kim Fajardo.
Although Morado missed the 2013 spectacle due to injury, she made sure to return with a bang as she announced her UAAP debut with the title.
"There is a big transition from high school to college but my coaches always tell me to play without pressure and play happy," said the Colegio San Agustin-Makati alum.
In their UAAP championship series last March, the young Morado performed like an experienced veteran ready to deliver even under immense pressure.
Morado distributed well and helped the Lady Eagles execute their plays with precision.
"I play with a mindset that if I won't be able to set well, we will not be able to get kills," she shared.
"I still want to improve on my maturity and I want to add more variety to our plays."
Show your best, go all out
As graduates of the nation's biggest sports spectacle, Gequillana and Morado reminded the aspiring young athletes to showcase everything they have, since their Palaro exposure might open the doors for a brighter future.
"Show your best. The Palaro is a stepping stone," said Gequillana.
Morado added: "Go all out each game. Whatever you do in the Palaro will be helpful once you go to college."
This year's Palaro lasts for only a week, but if the athletes flash determined looks and play their hearts out each time they hit the volleyball court, they may likely end up as Gequillana and Morado's successors - champions in the collegiate ranks.