MANILA, Philippines – Angel Canino came into the UAAP Season 85 women’s volleyball tournament as one of the most highly anticipated rookies yet for the storied La Salle Lady Spikers, and all eyes were on her as she made her seniors’ division debut against the mighty UST Golden Tigresses.
In front of 6,849 raucous fans at the Mall of Asia Arena, the 19-year-old sensation proved she was worth the hype and more, as she immediately led the Lady Spikers with 18 points off 16 attacks, 1 block, and 1 ace in a cardiac five-set win against their fellow Final Four contenders.
Speaking to the press after the game, Canino carried the poise of a veteran as she shared her thoughts on the game and her dreamlike debut.
“I wasn’t focusing on external factors. I was just focusing on what we can do as a team and what we can do inside the court,” she said in Filipino. “That’s why I was able to contribute and why my teammates were able to, as well.”
“I’m really happy because this is my dream, to play in MOA, play in the UAAP especially in college, and now I’m here. I didn’t expect that I’d be like this, that the game will be like this.”
Facing experienced foes like Eya Laure and Milena Alessandrini, Canino played like she was their contemporary, hammering powerful kills, huddling the team at crucial points, and bringing the swag that La Salle has always been known for.
Still, she acknowledges that she and her team overall have a lot more to improve on, as proven by blowout losses to UST in the second and fourth sets.
“We’re going to show who we are as Lady Spikers. What we can already do, we’ll push even further because we know we have a lot more to push in ourselves as a team,” Canino continued. “We will still jell more as a team. That’s what won us the fifth set. We pushed ourselves to the limit and gave our all.”
Even La Salle interim head coach Noel Orcullo agreed, as he was careful to not put his prized ward on too high of a pedestal after just one game.
“She was okay, but she had a lot of lapses left, so we have to adjust back in training. At least, she’s already getting the confidence,” he said in Filipino. “She was able to play her first game and an intense one at that. At least, this is confidence-building, not only for her, but for the whole team.”
Canino and the rest of La Salle can build up on this character-building season debut by taking care of the UP Fighting Maroons next on Wednesday, March 1, 4 pm.
“We have to prepare for everyone because everyone prepares for La Salle,” Canino continued. “They don’t stop, so neither should we.” – Rappler.com
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