MANILA, Philippines – University of Santo Tomas (UST) rookie Eya Laure was far from her best when the Golden Tigresses played the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles in the UAAP Season 81 women's volleyball tournament on Wednesday.
Laure was superb in her debut for UST, putting up 17 points in their five-set win over Adamson University last Sunday. She also nailed some key shots in the closing stretch of the Tigresses' 25-21, 25-21, 24-26, 24-26, 15-6 triumph.
But against a tall Ateneo team on Wednesday, Laure struggled. She was repeatedly turned back by Maddie Madayag and Kat Tolentino at the net, and did not find a rhythm until the third set. She still finished with 12 points, but was only 10-of-31 on attacks and was clearly flustered by the Ateneo net defense.
"Parang gasoline – ang tagal kong uminit, and ang tagal ko rin nahanap 'yung confidence ko, kung paano ko ilalaro 'yung normal kong laro," said Laure, who got some good hits in the third frame before fading in the fourth anew.
After Ateneo claimed the 25-21, 25-18, 16-25, 25-22 triumph, Laure said her struggles were all part and parcel of being a rookie in the UAAP.
"Madaming nage-expect," said Laure, a star for UST in high school before moving up to the seniors division. "Pero tao din ako. Rookie pa lang ako."
"Sa taas ng level ng laro dito sa UAAP seniors, siyempre kailangan ko rin mag-adjust," she added.
Laure acknowledged that for all the hype that followed her, she is still trying to find ways to be consistent – something that won't come easy even for the talented rookie.
"Tao din ako," she stressed. "Naga-adjust din ako sa level ng laro dito sa seniors, kasi iba-iba rin 'yung nakakalaban namin."
Fortunately for Laure, she knows how to restore her confidence. She did it in the third set, when she finally broke through the Ateneo wall with a powerful hit and proceeded to cheer her heart out.
"Siguro, 'yung swag," she explained. "Hindi naman swag sa kalaban, pero kunwari, confidence ko sa sarili, na chini-cheer up ko 'yung sarili ko, chini-cheer up ko 'yung teammates ko."
"Nagsasalita ako, nadadala ko sila. Kasi kapag nakita nila ako na nginingitian ko minsan 'yung kalaban, hindi naman personally, pero doon ko lang nakukuha 'yung confidence ko na maglaro kung ano 'yung nilalaro ko," she added.
Even after her subpar performance against Ateneo, Laure remains in the Top 10 of the most efficient spikers in the league, with a conversion rate of 32.86% -- just ahead of UST skipper Sisi Rondina (32.08%).
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