MANILA, Philippines – It is very clear to anyone who watches UAAP women’s volleyball that Sisi Rondina is the heart and soul of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Golden Tigresses.
The pint-sized spiker emerged as one of the most popular players in the league last year, as she amazed fans with her incredible leaping ability and power. The sight of Rondina in mid-flight, smashing attacks off opposing blockers, drew oohs and ahhs even from fans of UST’s foes.
In the UAAP Season 80 women’s volleyball tournament, the spotlight on Rondina has grown brighter than ever. With EJ Laure not playing due to a shoulder injury, Rondina has been carrying the bulk of the scoring load for the Golden Tigresses.
Through three games, Rondina has already scored 70 points – five points more than National University’s Jaja Santiago, who stands nearly a foot taller than the UST star. She has fired 63 kills in Season 80, and has done so on a relatively tidy 39.62% rate.
Her explosive scoring has not always translated to success: the Tigresses have won only once in three games, a straight sets demolition of University of the East last week. Just last Sunday, they bowed to Ateneo de Manila University in four sets despite a 22-point effort from the “Cherry Bomb.”
“Learning pa rin ‘yun para sa amin,” said Rondina after the Tigresses squandered a one-set advantage en route to a 25-16, 22-25, 22-25, 23-25 loss.
It was a doubly painful setback for UST, as they lost libero Rica Rivera to a knee injury in the very first set.
“May rason naman kung bakit naging ganoon,” said Rondina of her teammate’s injury. “Basta, aakuin namin kung ano ‘yung nawala sa amin. Tulong-tulong kami para mai-angat ‘yung team namin.”
Rondina has managed to stay positive despite a challenging start to UAAP Season 80. Yet her resolve will only be tested even more after Fil-Italian rookie Melina Alessandrini was declared out for the rest of the first round due to a shoulder injury.
Alessandrini was UST’s second option on offense, and the rookie had responded by scoring nearly 12 points per game in their first three contests.
Without her, Rondina’s burden will only become heavier. Nevertheless, the Cebuana is defiant in the face of this new challenge.
“Nagbitaw ako ng salita na hindi namin ipapahiya ang UST, so hindi ako mapapagod para sa UST,” Rondina declared.
She insists that she is not a one-man team: “Kita naman na nagtutulungan kami. Lapses lang, kailangan gamutin lang.”
What’s important for UST now is to work even harder, said Rondina. They are well aware of the reasons for their losses – they gave away 34 free points to Ateneo off their errors, and could not pounce on their opponent’s receiving woes.
“Kailangan naming gumalaw ng gumalaw, and magtiwala sa sarili,” said Rondina. “Then, kinakailangan namin mag-double time sa lahat, para makita namin ‘yung kulng doon sa mga games na natalo kami.”
“Kailangan namin mag-trabaho talaga para sa next game,” she stressed.
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