MANILA, Philippines -- For months now, Sisi Rondina has talked about making a "good exit" in the UAAP Season 81 women's volleyball tournament in what is her final year with University of Santo Tomas.
That is now in sight for the diminutive but explosive spiker as the Golden Tigresses are assured of a Final 4 berth in the tournament. With a 9-4 record heading into their final elimination round game, the No. 2 seed -- and the twice-to-beat edge that it carries -- is still within reach for UST as well.
"Okay na ako eh. Sobrang overwhelmed na ako," said Rondina, who scored 21 points to key UST's straight sets victory over Far Eastern University on Sunday -- the win that kept them in the hunt for the semis bonus.
"Pero sinasabi ko sa kanila na walang imposible 'pag mangarap tayo nang todo-todo, and trabahuhin namin," she added.
Indeed, as thrilled as she is to reach the Final 4, Rondina is dreaming of something even bigger for UST in her final season. The Tigresses have not reached the UAAP Finals since Season 73, but that is a stage that their captain wants to play on before she leaves.
"Ako nga, sabi ko nga, nangangarap na ako na gusto kong umabot sa championship," she said.
Yet for her to achieve that dream, Rondina knows she will need every bit of help from her teammates -- not just from celebrated rookie Eya Laure, but every player who suits up for UST.
For Rondina, she is ready to keep leading the way for her younger teammates, not just through her words but through actions.
"Ibibilin ko sa mga bata, kailangan kong gawin na pareho kami ng mindset," she said. "Ire-remind ko sa kanila 'yun and gagawin ko 'yung mga kailangang gawin, mapakita lang na gusto ko."
"Gusto kong maglaro para sa UST, gusto kong ma-pay off ang mga paghihirap namin. And kailangan ko nang lagyan ng actions 'yan. 'Yan lang ang gagawin ko," she added.
Rondina is ready to challenge her teammates to keep them focused on the task at hand -- to remind them of what's at stake not just for her, but for their school.
"Sa mga bata, ako na bahala sa kanilang sabihin sa kanila na parang, are you with me? Parang ganoon, are you with me?" she said.
"Kailangan sama-sama tayo, walang iwanan. And 'yun nga, sabi ko sa kanila na sana, mabigyan nila ako ng magandang exit," Rondina added.
What gives Rondina reason to hope is that she sees how the young Tigresses have responded to her instructions so far. She noted that on Sunday, she huddled her teammates prior to the game to keep them at an even keel.
UST had secured a Final 4 berth even before playing FEU thanks to University of the Philippines' loss to National University earlier in the day, but she wanted her team to keep their focus.
They were able to do just that and barely missed a step against the Lady Tamaraws.
"Sobrang responsive ng mga bata," Rondina beamed. "Nakikinig lang sila and nagtutulungan kami. Kaya ayun 'yung bunga talaga -- lahat ng mga set namin, lahat ng mga plays namin, lumalabas."
"Isa lang ang masasabi ko kanina, sobrang focused 'yung paglaro namin kanina. Ang maganda doon kasi, nasa gilid ko lang sila eh. Ako ang nagsasabi na, 'Ganito, ganyan.' And 'yung tipong sila 'yung, 'Sige, kami bahala sa'yo.' 'Yung ganoon, mararamdaman mo talaga sa loob 'yun," she added.
"Sobrang thankful ako sa kanila kasi nag-respond sila."
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