UAAP: Rondina grateful as rookie Laure keeps her promises

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 11 2019 03:00 PM

MANILA, Philippines – In Season 79, University of Santo Tomas (UST) made it to the UAAP Final 4 on the strength of Sisi Rondina's partnership with EJ Laure.

It was a brief trip: they bowed to eventual champions De La Salle University in four sets, 25-14, 25-20, 24-26, 25-13. Laure and Rondina combined for 30 points in that game, with the former powering through an ankle injury.

Two years later, UST is on the brink of another Final 4 trip, this time with Rondina teaming up with another Laure. Now in her final season for the Golden Tigresses, Rondina has formed a powerful 1-2 punch with Eya Laure, EJ's younger sister who has been having a sensational rookie campaign for UST.

On Wednesday, Rondina scored 20 points, and Laure added 11, as the Tigresses swept University of the Philippines 25-21, 25-12, 26-24, to improve to 8-4 in the UAAP Season 81 tournament. That record assures them of at least a playoff for a Final 4 spot.

"Sobrang saya," Rondina beamed after the game. "'Yung feeling talaga na hindi kami bumitaw sa game na iyon, kasi sabi ko sa kanila na 'di pa tapos, kaya pa natin bumawi."

Laure, who clinched the win with a huge block on UP veteran Marian Buitre, acknowledged that she struggled at certain stretches in the match, particularly on offense. But she was lifted up by her teammates, particularly Rondina who kept a positive vibe going all throughout the game, even when UST was trailing.

"Sobrang sarap sa pakiramdam na makarinig talaga, lahat talaga makikita mo talaga pag nagkaka-error ako, kung nabloblock ako, sasabihin lang nila sa akin: 'Sige lang, kaya mo iyan, babawiin mo rin iyan'," said Laure.

Watch more on iWantTFC

UST's straight sets triumph over UP was important in more ways than one to the young Laure. Heading into her rookie season, Laure has repeatedly expressed that her goal was to give Rondina a fitting exit – one that included a Final 4 appearance.

"Ayaw ko bigyan si Ate Sisi na hanggang elims lang kami," said Laure. "Iyon talaga, kasi entering this UAAP na season, iyon 'yung sinasabi ko sa kanya."

"Gusto ko ano 'yung deserve niya, maibigay namin. Di lang ako pero lahat kami," she stressed.

Laure's words aren't empty platitudes. According to Rondina, the rookie sent her a long text message prior to the season, vowing to do everything she can to help their campaign.

"Sinabihan niya ako na tutulungan niya ako, hindi niya ako iiwan," said Rondina. "Tinext niya ako nang mahaba. Nagpasalamat ako sa kanya, and sinabi ko na tutulungan ko rin siya."

For Rondina, it is gratifying to see Laure come in and live up to the promise that she made in the preseason. The rookie has had some struggles in Season 81, but for the most part she has been as good as advertised. Indeed, Laure is the league's second leading scorer after Rondina, having already scored 200 points in 12 games.

"Ang ganda, kasi pareho kami ng pinaglalaban nung bata," Rondina said of Laure.

"Ang sarap sa feeling, kasi nakikita mo 'yung mga pinagsasabi niya. Wala kang hindi nakita sa mga pinagsasabi niya. Hindi pa siya college, ganoon na takbo ng isip niya," she added.

"Nag-trabaho talaga 'yan si Eya," Rondina also said. "Pareho kami ng goal, pareho kami ng gusto. Tina-trabaho niya talaga."

UST, of course, is not yet out of the woods. They are tied for third and fourth place with Far Eastern University (FEU), and depending on how the final stretch of the elimination round shakes out, they can find themselves competing in a playoff, or armed with a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final 4.

"Hindi natin masabi," said Rondina. "Bilog 'yung bola."

The only thing Rondina can hope for is that her younger teammates will continue to step up for her, as she tries to extend her final season for as long as she can. They have another crucial game against FEU on Sunday, with the winner clinching a spot in the semifinals.

"Sana nga, tuloy-tuloy na 'to," she said.

For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.