MANILA, Philippines – Ever since Milena Alessandrini went down with a season-ending knee injury earlier this month, Sisi Rondina has been on a roll for University of Santo Tomas – especially on offense.
She averaged 19.625 points in their first eight games, a performance that was highlighted by a 35-point explosion against Ateneo de Manila University last week. That five-set war saw Rondina attempt a whopping 102 spikes. Eya Laure, their second-best scorer with 21 points, had 59 spike attempts in the game.
The sheer volume of the shots she attempted eventually took its toll on Rondina at the worst possible time. Her penultimate spike went long; her final hit nudged the antenna before falling to the court. The two attack errors gifted the Lady Eagles with the points they needed to win the thriller in come-from-behind fashion.
At the time, Rondina refused to use her exhaustion as an excuse. "Iniisip ko lang na bawal ako mapagod," she said after playing for two hours and 32 minutes. "Sinabihan ko 'yung mga setter ko na hindi ako mapapagod, 'wag lang kayo mapagod mag-cover."
A week later, there was no need for Rondina to swing 102 times to lead UST to victory. She didn't need to score 35 points, either. The Golden Tigresses made quick work of Adamson, 25-15, 25-12, 25-16, with their captain putting up just 10 points, having converted 8 of her 27 hits in the game.
"Lahat nag-deliver," Rondina beamed after their win, which took just an hour and 13 minutes to complete. "Hindi man lahat nakapaglaro, pero nag-perform nang maayos, and 'yun nga, walang injury."
Rondina was one of four UST players in double-digits in the game. Laure was superb, tallying 17 points, while Dimdim Pacres contributed 12 markers. Their breakout player was middle blocker Caitlyn Viray, who had 14 points including 3 kill blocks.
The graduating open spiker was delighted to see her teammates come up with big games against Adamson, after she and Laure had done most of the heavy lifting during their previous loss to Ateneo.
"Marami na kaming katulong, hindi lang sa amin nafo-focus," Rondina said. "Ang sarap pakinggan. Ang sarap sa feeling na kaming UST ang naglalaro, di lang kami lang."
Rondina has never doubted that her teammates could step up, and was proud to see them live up to her expectations.
"Ang sarap lang sa feeling, 'yung tipong, 'O bahala na kayo diyan, kami na sa likod'," said Rondina, who was also credited with 14 digs in the contest.
"Ganoon na lang ang iisipin mo, kasi lahat sila eh – kahit si Dim, si Eya – wala ka ng problema. Magko-cover ka na lang, and tumulong ka na lang," she added. "Wala na akong problema doon."
With multiple players contributing, the Golden Tigresses rebounded from a painful defeat and improved to 6-3 in the UAAP Season 81 tournament. They are currently tied for second place with defending champion De La Salle University, and the two squads will meet in a blockbuster showdown on Sunday.
Rondina is confident that her teammates will step up once more against the Lady Spikers, as they gun for a sweep of the defending champions in the elimination round.
"Proud ako sa kanila, at sana tuloy-tuloy na ito," she said. "Hindi lang sana – gagawin namin."
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