MANILA, Philippines – University of Santo Tomas (UST) has remained steady even after the season-ending knee injury suffered by Milena Alessandrini, and much of the credit has gone to the powerful pair of Sisi Rondina and Eya Laure.
The two spikers have been nothing short of sensational, as they carried the scoring load for UST throughout their three-match winning streak to end the first round of eliminations in the UAAP Season 81 tournament.
In their game against University of the East (UE) last Sunday, Rondina tallied 17 points, and Laure added 15 markers in a swift 25-18, 25-14, 25-20 triumph. Both players were efficient: Laure went 11-of-23 on attacks, while Rondina was 16-of-34.
UST coach Kungfu Reyes credited one player for their efficient performance: rookie setter MaFe Galanza.
"Kumbaga sa definition ng setter, siya na 'yun eh, si MaFe na," said Reyes, after his team ended the first round with a 5-2 record.
"Nilalagay niya 'yung most comfortable position ng spiker, para makapalo sila ng maayos," he explained. "So 'yun ang pinakamagandang trabaho ng setter, nilalagay niya sa pinakamataas na percentage ang spiker niya para umatake."
"Nasa kanya 'yung criteria eh," he added.
Reyes was impressed with how Galanza has performed so far for the Golden Tigresses. The rookie came off the bench in their first game against Adamson University, and was inconsistent for their first few assignments. But Galanza has shone in their recent matches, and has started over veteran Alina Bicar for their part three games.
She was solid against UE, tallying 14 excellent sets. She tossed 21 excellent sets against National University last week, and more than held her own against De La Salle University playmaker Michelle Cobb in their match-up, putting up 21 excellent sets as well.
"Siyempre well-experienced si Alina, pero kung makikita mo doon sa stat at sa positioning ng spiker, kung sinong pinaka-magandang magpagalaw ng tao, doon kami pupunta," Reyes said of his decision to start Galanza.
"Eh nagkataon na si MaFe, very composed, hindi mo makitaan ng nagdududa sa sarili or anything, talagang laro lang siya," he added.
At the end of the first round, Galanza is averaging 3.48 excellent sets per set, seventh among all playmakers – and ahead of Bicar, who norms 2.07 excellent sets per set.
Galanza downplayed the impact she's had on her team during their recent winning run, instead crediting it to the instructions of her coaches.
"Nakikinig lang talaga ako sa coaches," she said.
"Siguro ano, sinunod lang namin 'yung coaches namin kaya ganun 'yung kinalabasan ng game namin. May kaunting mga errors pero siguro sa training din naman itatama talaga," she also said.
Galanza, the younger sister of former Adamson University star Jema, said she is thankful to have already earned her coach's trust so early in her career.
"Sobrang laki ng impact sa akin noon," admitted the young playmaker.
"Siyempre, rookie pa lang ako, tapos unang taon niya na hinawakan ako, pero ganoon kaagad 'yung tiwala na binibigay niya," Galanza added. "Pero sinasabi naman niya sa amin na lahat sa amin, grabe 'yung tiwala niya sa aming mga rookie."
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