MANILA, Philippines -- In her first UAAP game in nearly three years, EJ Laure looked like she did not miss a beat.
The former Rookie of the Year made an impact on both sides of the ball in University of Santo Tomas' (UST) first game of UAAP Season 82, Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena. Laure put up 17 points -- including 15 kills -- along with a team-high 20 digs and 12 excellent receptions.
Unfortunately for UST, the "triple-double" was not enough as they bowed to National University in five grueling sets, 25-22, 23-25, 25-20, 20-25, 13-15. EJ's younger sister, Eya, had a team-high 20 points, while rookie Imee Hernandez shone with 18 points in a losing effort.
"(We) fell short," Laure would say afterward. "Pero siyempre, babangon pa rin."
She was reluctant to discuss her own performance, in what was her first game since a Final 4 match-up against De La Salle University in UAAP Season 79. Laure missed the next two collegiate seasons as she dealt with various injuries, including a recurring shoulder ailment.
Now healthy again, Laure only said that her strong showing is the result of intense preparation.
"Pinaghandaan ko kasi talaga 'to, so nag-double time ako. Tapos ayun, lumabas lang kung ano pinaghandaan ko," says Laure.
More than her statistical output on the court, Laure is taking pride in how she led the Tigresses in such a thrilling game. The Tigresses had fallen behind early in the deciding fifth frame, but clawed their way back and even made it a one-point game.
NU completed the come-from-behind win, thanks to a huge hit from sophomore middle blocker Ivy Lacsina, but Laure was still satisfied with how the Tigresses fought back.
"Lahat sila kinakabahan kasi first game tapos UAAP na," she observed. "Siyempre, as a veteran and as an ate sa kanila, hindi ko pinapakita if ever kinakabahan ako."
"Mas nili-lead ko sila na parang, 'Ah si Ate EJ, kaya pala i-handle 'yung kaba.' So, 'yun 'yung pinapakita ko sa kanila," she added.
With UST dropping its first game of the women's volleyball tournament, Laure is determined to help the team get on the right track as soon as possible.
"Bukas (in practice), magsasabi ako sa kanila and itatama ko kung anong nakikita kong mali," she said.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).