MANILA, Philippines – De La Salle University rookie Thea Gagate introduced herself to the UAAP in fine fashion, as she scored 10 points in her debut for the Lady Spikers against Ateneo de Manila University last Saturday.
The 6-foot-2 middle blocker had a game-high 5 blocks – including a massive rejection of Ateneo rookie Faith Nisperos – as the Lady Spiker powered past the defending champions, 25-17, 17-25, 25-17, 25-15.
Gagate admitted that she felt some nerves ahead of her first collegiate game – "slight lang" was how she described it – but she overcame them with the help of her veteran teammates.
"They're very helpful po, kasi they have more experience than me," she said. "Malaking bagay po 'yun, 'yung guidance nila and 'yung pag-relax sa amin as rookies."
"As a rookie, first time kong lumaban sa ganitong klaseng crowd," she also said. "So ayun, at first may kaba pa rin, pero we just trusted coach's system."
Gagate was not the only rookie to shine against Ateneo. Leila Cruz also got the call to start and had 9 points, while Baby Jyne Soreño had 8 points off the bench. Libero Justin Jazareno was solid all throughout the game, and finished with 14 digs.
La Salle head coach Ramil de Jesus said his young players have plenty more to show.
"Medyo mataas ang expectation ko (kay Thea)," he said. "Pero hindi masyadong nag-abot 'yung setter at saka siya."
"Si kahit papaano andoon pa rin, doon sa ine-expect ko sa kanya, siguro mas mataas pa 'yung hinahanap kong laro. So ngayon hindi masyadong naipakita," he added.
As her coach's expectations rise, so will those of the fans.' After showing a glimpse of her potential in just their first game of the season, Gagate knows that more and more will be asked of her.
Fortunately for the rookie, she already knows how to deal with the pressure and scrutiny that comes with being a Lady Spiker.
"Siguro, I'll just train and not think about it a lot," she said. "If lalo ko 'yun iisipin, mas lalo akong mape-pressure."
La Salle returns to action on Tuesday against University of the Philippines.
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