MANILA, Philippines – Two sets down in what would eventually become their final match in the collegiate ranks, Kathy Bersola and Nicole Tiamzon dreaded the moment when they had to hear match point being awarded to their tormentors.
But when they did, the graduating Lady Maroons themselves refused to go packing without giving a proper fight.
Crawling from a 21-24 deficit, UP banked on its “super seniors” as the Diliman-based squad pushed the match to a tiebreaker, much to the delight of the crowd in maroon.
The excitement and thunderous applause, however, were short-lived when a net violation on Tiamzon ended the do-or-die clash in dramatic fashion.
As the Lady Tamaraws rejoiced on court after punching a ticket to this year’s semis, UP’s hopes and dreams of going back to the Final Four wandered off into the night.
“I was thinking ‘not today, not today,’” said former team captain Bersola. “Biglang nag-flashback ‘yung first UAAP game ko.” (I had a flashback of my first UAAP game.)
Tears were shed as the two, along with fellow graduating libero Princess Gaiser, bid an emotional farewell to their rollercoaster UAAP careers. With their fists held high one last time, the seniors sang along to “UP Naming Mahal” before the tune slowly faded away into the background.
It wasn’t how they wanted the season to end. While the team has plummeted down the standings after a 4-0 start, some spectators and supporters still rooted for UP in its quest of consecutive semifinals appearances after a breakout season last year.
But when all is said and done, the Lady Maroons will only have the choice of moving on and moving forward.
“Noong third set, na-feel ko na kaya naming manalo. Pero wala naman tayong magagawa,” said Gaiser, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury in UP’s first round match-up against National University.
“Pero I hope, sa teammates ko, naging motivation ‘yun for them. I know [na] ginawa naman nila lahat and they fought hard.”
(In the third set, I felt that we could actually win it. But we can’t do anything about it now. I hope this serves as motivation for my teammates. I know they did what they could and they fought hard.)
From cellar dwellers to Final Four contenders
Bersola, the tournament’s best blocker back in Season 76, fondly recalled the time when she was just stepping in as a freshman for the erstwhile bottom dweller UP squad.
“’Pag pasok ko ng UP, unang-una kong sinabi, bago ako umalis dito, magkaka-championship ako (When I entered UP, I told myself that before I leave, I’ll win a championship). It wasn’t really connected to the standing of the team noong time na ‘yun (at that time), it was more of how competitive I was,” mused the middle blocker.
“Parang somehow, somehow talaga, gagawin ko ‘yun.” (Somehow, I told myself I would do it.)
Failing to conceal her emotions, she continued after a pause, “Pero ngayon, tapos na. Wala na.” (But now, it’s all over. It’s gone.)
They may have failed to bring the crown back to the other side of Katipunan during their run, but the lasting legacy they had left is enough for the UP community to be proud of.
Bersola, Tiamzon, and Gaiser all bore witness to the Lady Maroons’ steady rise from the cellar to actually becoming Final Four contenders.
For the 3 graduating Iskolars, there really is nowhere to go but up.
“What I tell people is that I feel blessed na naabutan ko ‘to,” shared Gaiser. “From two wins to 7 wins, that means a lot to me. Kasi I never expected it to be like this.”
(What I tell people is that I feel blessed that I got to witness this. From two wins to 7 wins, that means a lot to me, because I never expected it to be like this.)
Graduating hitter Tiamzon hopes that despite the seniors’ departure, the young Lady Maroons can sustain the bravery as well as the fighting mentality they’ve instilled during all those years.
“I think ‘yung attitude na kahit lumagpak ka, na ma-down ka, ‘wag ka papayag na hindi ka ulit aangat,” Tiamzon said when asked about the type of legacy she wants to leave UP with. “Feel ko lahat kami, na-experience namin ‘yun.”
(I think that attitude of rising back up when you fall or when you’re down. I feel that we’ve all experienced it.)
As the curtains come down on the trio’s careers, what’s next for UP’s super seniors?
Gaiser and Bersola will continue on treading the path of giving back to the community as they both pursue the dream of becoming doctors.
“I don’t know if I’ll still play volleyball,” was the veteran libero’s response when asked about her future plans. “When I recover, hindi ko alam kung may kukuha pa sa akin na teams kasi hindi ko alam ang mangyayari talaga (I don’t know if teams will take interest because I still don’t know what will happen). What I’m sure of is that I’m gonna pursue medicine.”
While the defensive specialist is still unsure of her volleyball plans, Bersola aims to juggle med school and the sport that has embraced her with open arms.
“I have an interview for UP Med [UP College of Medicine], I hope I pass. To the best of my ability, I’ll still play,” she replied.
Bersola added that she’s still undecided on whether she’ll be suiting up for the Philippine V-League or the Philippine Super Liga. “I’m looking at offers from teams. I haven’t decided yet, but surely I’m playing.”
“Try ko pagsabayin, med [school] and playing.” (I’ll try to do med and volleyball at the same time.)
Tiamzon, for her part, will the take the precious time off to rest and finish her thesis before stepping onto the court again.
“[Mag]papahinga muna ako, focus muna sa thesis. Maglalaro ako after, medyo rest lang.” (I’m going to rest first, to focus on my thesis. I’ll play after, just resting for a bit.)
The batch of 2012 also delivered some piece of valuable advice for the younger Lady Maroons as they buckle up for future tournaments sans the veterans.
“Play because they want to play. Play with pride, and play with passion,” was Gaiser’s closing remark.
Bersola likewise expressed her gratitude to all the Maroon supporters who have been consistently present in the team’s uphill climb. (READ: UP volleyball star Kathy Bersola in running for summa cum laude)
“Hindi ‘nyo alam kung gaano ako ka-grateful sa buong UP community dahil literal na started from the bottom now we here,” she noted with a smile. “[To my teammates] keep moving forward, sana ‘wag kayong mawalan ng loob for next season. I wish you all the best sa lahat ng aspects ng student-athlete life. Sana kayanin ‘nyo nang kayanin nang kayanin.”
(You don’t know how grateful I am to the whole UP community because we literally started from bottom. To my teammates, keep moving forward, don’t lose heart for next season. I wish you all the best in all aspects of the student-athlete life. I hope you handle everything well.)
The girls also took a minute to thank every individual who has been in on their journeys as stalwarts of the Diliman Republic.
“First of all, gusto nating magpasalamat sa lahat ng taong walang sawang sumuporta sa team namin, nagtiwala,” said senior spiker Tiamzon. “To all of the sponsors, sa UP women’s volleyball alumni. ‘Yung coaching staff, everything. Sa teammates, thank you. Wala na kaming ibang masasabi pa kundi thank you sa limang taong binigay ‘nyo rin sa amin na magtiwala, sa limang taon na privilege to play for UP.”
(First of all, we would like to everyone who has endlessly supported and believed in our team. To all the sponsors, to the UP women’s volleyball alumni. To the coaching staff, everything. To our teammates, thank you. We don’t know what else to say other than thank you for the 5 years you gave us, for the 5-year privilege of playing for UP.)
“All of the sacrifices ng teammates ko, thank you lang talaga masasabi ko. I think, hindi man para sa amin ‘to, baka para sa iba talaga.”
(For all of my teammates’ sacrifices, all I can say is thank you. If this wasn’t for us, maybe it really was for somebody else.)
When asked who they think will step up as leaders in the absence of the seniors, Bersola shared a vision as she responded, “Si Caloy [Tots Carlos], si Isa [Molde], si Ayel [Estranero]. [Pero] si Caloy at Isa, sila lagi ‘yung babad. I hope na tapangan nila lalo, and sila ang mag-lead sa team.”
(Caloy, Isa, and Ayel. Caloy and Isa, they have the most exposure. I hope they continue to get braver, and that they will be the ones to the lead the team next season.)－Rappler.com
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