UAAP: Rondina feels the love from grateful UST community

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 05 2019 09:49 PM | Updated as of May 06 2019 12:37 AM

MANILA, Philippines -- An overwhelmed Sisi Rondina could only hold on and cover her face as assistant coach Yani Fernandez carried her in a victory lap around the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday evening.

University of Santo Tomas had just ended an eight-year finals drought in the UAAP women's volleyball tournament after it defeated defending champion De La Salle University in a thrilling five-set encounter in the Season 81 Final 4.

Rondina did not play her best game, scoring just 17 points, but her defensive mettle and leadership shone amid her struggles on offense. She remained the Golden Tigresses' emotional anchor as they claimed a 25-19, 25-19, 20-25, 23-25, 15-10 win, foiling the Lady Spikers' bid for an 11th straight finals appearance.

"Ako 'yung unang nawawala, pero andoon ako para tulungan ang mga nagpupuntos sa team namin. Still, I'm so thankful kasi binalik nila ako and ginuide nila ako. Tama nga, hindi sa lahat ng araw, araw mo," said Rondina of her subpar play on Sunday.

Afterward, Rondina was carried on the shoulders of their assistant coach, as the UST crowd that packed the MOA Arena showered her with chants of "M-V-P, M-V-P." 

"Nahihiya nga ako," Rondina said after the game. 

For Rondina, it was gratifying to hear the support from the UST crowd, especially after she battled through a tough outing in what was their most important game so far in Season 81.

"Sobrang sarap sa feeling na those people na, nagchi-cheer sa 'yo, andyan sila lagi. Alam mo 'yung feeling na ang laki ng tiwala na binigay nila sa akin. Nafi-feel ko talaga 'yung love, and I love them all, sobra," she said.

Rondina has felt that love all throughout Season 81, as the Golden Tigresses and the entire UST community rallied around their fiery captain. The open spiker from Cebu has made no secret of her desire for a "good exit" from the UAAP, and that means leading UST to a phase they have not reached in eight years -- the women's volleyball finals.

All season long, the Tigresses have played with that goal in their minds and hearts, and no one played with more intensity and passion than the diminutive Rondina.

In her final season, she has elevated her game higher than ever before, especially after Milena Alessandrini went down with a knee injury. Rondina scored 259 points in the elimination round, leading the league once more, while converting nearly 34% of her attempts. Even when her offense isn't clicking, Rondina does not take plays off on defense, as she averages 3.98 digs per game.

All this, Rondina said, is for the school that has embraced her ever since she stepped foot in their campus in España.

"I love UST," she said. "And, wala nang makakapagpa-bago doon. Lahat ng commitments ko, lahat ng nangyari sa buhay ko, lahat ng pagiging-successful ko sa mga nakukuha ko, dahil sa UST."

"I'm so thankful na ganoon ;yung pagtingin nila sa akin, sa pag-tanggap nila sa akin. Feel ko din na nilalaban ko din talaga sila," she added.

With this in mind, Rondina said she and her teammates will do "whatever it takes" to end their season on the highest of notes, and deliver UST its first women's volleyball crown since Season 72.

"Tatrabahuin namin, and gagawin namin ang lahat. Ako sa sarili ko, I will promise na gagawin ko ang lahat makuha lang 'yung pina-pangarap ko, 'yung gusto ko, and 'yung makatikim ako ng gold," Rondina declared.

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