MANILA, Philippines – After a mostly underwhelming campaign for Far Eastern University (FEU) in the UAAP Season 79 women's volleyball tournament, Jerrili Malabanan made a quick turnaround as she signed with Bali Pure in the Premier Volleyball League.
Malabanan flew under the radar for the Water Defenders in the build-up to the Reinforced Conference, as most of the focus were on National University stars Jasmine Nabor and Risa Sato, and three-time NCAA MVP Gretchel Soltones.
Yet it was Malabanan who earned the most praise from coach Roger Gorayeb following Bali Pure's four-set victory over Air Force to open their campaign last Sunday at the FilOil Flying V Centre.
"'Yung bata, madali namang turuan," Gorayeb said after Malabanan scored 12 points in Bali Pure's 21-25, 25-19, 25-19, 25-21 win over the Lady Jet Spikers.
"Medyo tahimik lang siya, pangiti-ngiti lang," he added. "Siyempre ang gusto mo ay masigla talaga. Pero it works for her, so bakit hindi. Hayaan mo na lang na ganoon siya."
"Malaking tulong siya sa amin."
[She's easy to teach. She's quiet, and of course you'd want your players to be pumped up all the time. But it works for her, so why not? We'll let her be. She's a big help to us.]
Gorayeb sent Malabanan in the game as a substitute for Jorelle Singh in the first set, and she proved to be a more effective option than the shorter Singh. Malabanan scored nine attack points, including the winners in sets 3 and 4, while also firing three aces.
What made Malabanan's performance more impressive was that she had been practicing with the Water Defenders for only three days before making her debut.
"I think super welcoming naman 'yung team sa akin," Malabanan said. "Even though it's only been three days, it feels like it's been longer than that."
"'Yung first day, it was kind of awkward, but now I think I've adjusted more because they're super welcoming," she added.
Malabanan's season with FEU in the UAAP was up-and-down, as she was often subbed out of games in favor of the faster Heather Guino-o. She is now looking forward to playing a bigger role with the Water Defenders.
"I play the same position, so I think the roles are the same," she said. "But we have less people on our team here, so I think I have more of a chance to contribute."
Bali Pure tries for a 2-0 record on Tuesday against the Power Smashers.
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