MANILA, Philippines - Exactly a week has passed since the De La Salle University Lady Spikers swept the Ateneo Lady Eagles to retain the Women’s Volleyball title in Season 79.
It has also been a week since the league’s two star setters, Kim Fajardo and Jia Morado, whispered their final farewell to the UAAP stage in two completely different manners.
While Fajardo rightfully and joyously celebrated the Lady Spikers’ two-peat, Morado opted for a tranquil, graceful exit from the collegiate ranks.
A legacy in La Salle
Saturday, May 6 was an eventful day for Fajardo, to say the least. Right before Game 2 of the Finals series against Ateneo, the 5th year playmaker received two plums as the regular season’s Best Setter and Best Server.
On the way to the Big Dome, head coach Ramil de Jesus cautioned the Lady Spikers to remain focused on the task at hand even after the individual recognition rites. With Fajardo leading the way, the Taft-based squad managed to pull through and stopped the Lady Eagles from forcing a championship rubber match.
“Sabi ko sa kanila, atin ‘to. Walang bibitaw,” said the DLSU team captain. “Sobrang sarap, hindi ko alam kung paano ie-express. Sobrang saya ko talaga.”
(I told them to hold on, that this is ours. It’s a really pleasant feeling, I don’t know how else to express it. I’m just really happy.)
The Batangas native added that while she felt happy upon hearing that the team wanted to dedicate this title for her, she also wanted the sweet victory to inspire the younger Lady Spikers for the years to come.
“Gusto ko sila maglaro para sa kanila, gusto ko sila magkaroon din ng name for them,” shared Fajardo. “[Pero] sabi ko,kung makakalaro sila nang maayos, at dine-dedicate nila sa kin ‘yun, why not?”
(I wanted the team to play for themselves, to have their own names established. [But then] I told myself, if they play well and they wanted to dedicate the win for me, why not?) (READ: Welcome to Kim Fajardo’s last dance)
After snatching the volleyball crown back in Season 78, the skipper was all but decided on whether she’ll utilize her final playing year for La Salle.
Now that everything is said and done, Fajardo, who tallied 6 markers along with 43 excellent sets in her last dance, couldn’t help but look back at the memories - both good and bad - she has made with her teammates and coaching staff during her time in Taft.
“Pinapagalitan niya [Coach Ramil] ako parati eh,” Fajardo shared with a laugh. “Mamimiss ko sila talaga. Hindi nakikita sa TV kung papaano sila sa labas ng court. Mamimiss ko talaga ‘yun.”
([Coach Ramil] always scolds me. I will really miss them. People don’t see on TV how we are as a team outside the court. I will really miss them.)
Like a perfectly sculpted storybook ending, Fajardo steps away from the collegiate stage with no regrets and some of the best decisions of her life and career.
“Siyempre naman po, worth it lahat ng nangyari sa akin, (everything was all worth it).”
Ace in Katipunan
The narrative wasn’t woven the same way, however, for Ateneo’s captain and ace setter Morado. The 22-year old kept mum back in the locker room, but shocked everyone when she divulged the decision to forego her final eligibility year during her community speech in the Church of the Gesu at Ateneo.
Before her, the Blue Eagle crowd remained consistent with “One More Year” chants, hoping that their star playmaker, like Fajardo, would decide to suit up for a 5th straight year.
Little did they know that what would come after would break the hearts not only of the Lady Eagles, but also of numerous volleyball fans around the country.
But just like in other aspects of life, one has to eventually move on.
“It was an honor to play for the Blue and White,” a tearful Morado declared during her speech.
“As much as it hurts to say, I’d like to move on, and I’m looking forward to a new chapter in my life. I know it won’t be easy to understand why.”
Her quiet yet riveting departure and refusal to steal the limelight during the championship game say a lot about the former Best Setter’s character. But Morado, in her own simple way, has definitely stamped a personal mark in both Ateneo and Philippine volleyball.
The setters’ exit
Longtime La Salle mentor De Jesus meanwhile believes that no matter how hard they try, the Lady Spikers won’t be able to find nor replace a legend that is Kim Fajardo.
“Paano papalitan ‘yung Kim Fajardo? Mahirap ‘yun, iisa lang ‘yun eh. Nag-iisa lang ang Kim Fajardo.”
(How do you replace Kim Fajardo? You can’t, because there’s only one Kim Fajardo.)
The league won’t likely find another Kim Fajardo or Jia Morado soon. The two may have already put an end to their respective UAAP chapters, but this surely isn’t the last we’ll see of them. －Rappler.com