MANILA, Philippines -- Jhoana Maraguinot knows that she did not fulfill most people's expectations with her performance in Ateneo de Manila University's first game of the UAAP Season 82 women's volleyball tournament.
Yet the veteran Lady Eagle was perfectly happy with how she played -- scoring four points in the defending champions' swift 25-13, 25-17, 25-23 triumph over Katipunan neighbors University of the Philippines (UP).
"Personally, I'm happy," said Maraguinot. "It's my first game after almost a year."
"Siguro, 'yung may mataas 'yung expectation sa akin would say na it's not the 'old Jho,'" she acknowledged. "But for me, it's progress."
Maraguinot was Ateneo's leading scorer in Season 80, putting up a total of 203 points to help the Lady Eagles reach the Final 4. They bowed out in the semifinals that year, losing to Far Eastern University in just one game.
Afterward, Maraguinot said she would sit out the next season, in what would have been her final year of eligibility.
The Lady Eagles went on to win the championship in Season 81, and Maraguinot decided to come back for their title defense in Season 82.
Ahead of the tournament, she made it clear that she was not yet at peak form after not playing competitively for most of 2019, and that she was still learning the system preferred by head coach Oliver Almadro.
Thus, her modest scoring output -- and of course, their season-opening win -- was enough for Maraguinot.
"Ang tagal kong tumigil eh," she stressed. "I'm just really happy na nakabalik ako, at nagkaroon ako ng chance na makapaglaro ulit."
Saying that she was still at just 70-80%, Maraguinot is staying patient as she works her way back to full fitness. She is also hoping that Ateneo fans can have the same patience, as they wait for her to display the explosiveness that made her such a fan favorite in her early seasons with the team.
After all, it is still early in the season.
"It's gonna be a process," Maraguinot stressed. "Nagi-start pa lang naman kami."
"Marami pang games, so marami pa akong chance to prove myself," she added.
While Maraguinot works her way back to 100%, the rest of the Lady Eagles are ready to step up for the squad. On Wednesday against UP, Kat Tolentino was her usual steady self, scoring 15 points. Jules Samonte shone in the middle blocker position, scoring 3 of her 10 points on kill blocks.
And highly touted rookie Faith Nisperos was solid in her UAAP debut, with 10 points.
"It's a good thing na hindi kami nagdedepende sa isang tao lang. Pag kailangan mong mag-step up, magi-step up ka," said Maraguinot.
"Hindi ka... 'Ay, bata ako. Pabebe lang ako, seniors na bahala sa akin.' Lagi namang sinasabi sa amin na kahit bata ka diyan, matanda ka diyan, may role ka," she added. "Gawin mo ang trabaho mo."
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