MANILA, Philippines – De La Salle University head coach Ramil de Jesus paid a major compliment to University of Santo Tomas (UST) standout Sisi Rondina on Saturday, after the Lady Spikers hacked out a 5-set win over the Tigresses to start UAAP Season 80.
After the Tigresses lost the opening set, 25-20, Rondina almost single-handedly dragged her team back into contention, with a series of points in the second frame that energized the UST squad.
La Salle came away with a difficult 25-20, 17-25, 25-22, 15-25, 15-8 win, but first needed to withstand a stunning 28-point effort from Rondina that including 25 attacks.
"Every year naman kasi, lumalakas 'yung bata," said de Jesus of Rondina. "Nasa character naman ng isang player 'yun, kung ano ang gusto niyang mangyari sa sarili niya."
De Jesus, in his 20th season as head coach of De La Salle, noted that Rondina was not the first uber-powerful spiker that the Lady Spikers have faced.
"Before, merong Alyssa Valdez," said de Jesus, referring to the 3-time MVP who led Ateneo to two championships. "Ngayon, siya naman. So pinaghahandaan naman namin."
Yet even though they prepared for Rondina, the diminutive spiker still exploded for 28 points, and repeatedly broke down La Salle's net and floor defense. Even the presence of the towering Majoy Baron, the reigning MVP, did not deter Rondina from scoring.
De Jesus could only commend Rondina for her remarkable effort.
"Talagang gustong buhatin 'yung team," he said. "Ibang klase."
The Lady Spikers were similarly impressed with how Rondina repeatedly rose for attacks, even after getting denied by their blocks. Rondina shrugged off the initial rejection, leapt anew and adjusted her spike to force the ball through the La Salle defense.
"Si Rondina, aggressive siya pumalo," said Baron, who had five kill blocks in the game. "So 'yung blocking namin, nadi-disrupt. Kaya siguro minsan, nawawalan na rin kami ng confidence na pumwesto sa blocking, kasi aggressive siya pumalo."
Perhaps it was Kianna Dy who best put the Rondina effect into perspective.
"After (ng game), nag-apir-apir kami, sabi ko sa kanya, 'Halimaw ka.' Kaloka 'yung batang 'yun," said Dy, who saw limited minutes as she recovers from a hyperextended left knee.
"Very aggressive siya pumalo," Dy added. "Backline, frontline, anywhere. Kung saan mana pumunta 'yung bola, tatalon at tatalon siya."
Rondina was just grateful of the compliments given to her by the La Salle coach and players, while also stressing that all she does is for her team.
"Thank you ako kay coach Ramil sa compliment," she said. "Parang, sa kagustuhan ko lang talaga 'yun. Ayun nga, bumitaw ako ng salita na kahit noong first year pa talaga, hinding-hindi ko talaga ipapahiya ang UST."
"Ipapakita namin na lalaban kami," she vowed.
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