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Despite playing with fever, Soltones delivers MVP numbers

San Sebastian’s Gretchel Soltones shone despite playing with fever. Richard Esguerra, ABS-CBN Sports

MANILA, Philippines – San Sebastian College star Gretchel Soltones shook off the effects of a slight fever and sore throat to again lead the way for the Lady Stags in a victory over University of Santo Tomas (UST) in the V-League Season 13 Collegiate Conference.

Soltones came through with 23 points on 21 attacks and one block, while also tallying nine excellent receptions in San Sebastian’s 25-20, 25-18, 16-25, 19-25 victory. 

The two-time NCAA Most Valuable Player was her usual energetic, bouncy self inside the court. It wasn’t until after the game that coach Clint Malanzo revealed she was feeling under the weather.

(READ: Lady Stags boot out Tigresses in semis race)

“‘Yung third set, medyo napapagod na ng kaunti (ang team),” Malanzo said. “Buti na lang nabaliktad namin kasi delikadong kalaban ang UST… si Grethcel, nilalagnat pa. Buti na lang, nakabawi agad kami.”

Malanzo said that Soltones had been dealing with a fever on Tuesday night and took a paracetamol ahead of the game on Wednesday. There were plans to sub out the star open spiker whenever she was in the back row, but the nip-and-tuck nature of the game dissuaded the coach from pushing through with the idea.

“Masyadong dikit (‘yung laro),” he rued. “Kung medyo lumayo sana, nakapag-pahinga. At saka tinanong ko naman siya, kaya mo ba? Kaya naman daw. Eh di sige, mas nararamdaman niya ‘yun. Mas alam niya ang katawan niya.”

Malanzo hailed Soltones as a “fighter” for her effort, but the player herself shrugged it off.

“Okay lang po ako,” Soltones said after the game. “Medyo kapos po kanina, pero hindi kasi ako pwedeng ilabas ni coach, kasi dikdikan ‘yung laban. Kailangan po ako na andoon sa loob, so ayun.”

Soltones also refused to take credit for the win, pointing out that several of her teammates had solid games as well. No other San Sebastian player finished in double digits, but Katherine Villegas and Joyce Sta. Rita each had nine points.

Libero Alyssa Eroa also earned praise after the game for a 30-dig, 13-reception effort.

“Nagko-contribute naman ang bawat isa,” said Soltones. “Okay naman ‘yung game namin as a team.”

Soltones’ effort against UST was enough to propel her to No. 1 in the Best Scorers list, as she now has a total of 99 points, four ahead of UST guest player Eya Laure. Soltones also ranks third among the top spikers. 

She is no slouch on the defensive end, as well: Soltones is the league’s best receiver with a 39.42% efficiency rate, ahead of other teams’ liberos, and is 10th in digs with an average of 2.89 digs per set.

She will likely be among the top candidates for MVP in the Collegiate Conference, putting her on track for a repeat, having also won MVP honors in the Open Conference while playing for Bali Pure.

But Soltones said she is utterly unconcerned about her statistics or the MVP race.

“Wala naman po akong pakialam doon,” she said. “Basta mananalo kami, okay na sa akin.”

“Ang goal ko ngayon is madagdagan ‘yung experience ng bawat isa sa amin, at mas maging mature in every decision na gagawin namin sa court. ‘Yun lang,” she stressed.

The Lady Stags will look to boost their semifinals drive on Saturday when they take on Far Eastern University.

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