MANILA, Philippines -- For Ateneo de Manila University standout Kat Tolentino, some of the most memorable moments of her UAAP career happened outside the volleyball court.
Tolentino has fun memories about the games, but she looks back most fondly on the offseason -- the long days of preparation leading up to the UAAP tournament.
Something that Tolentino remembers clearly is the passion and dedication of the fans.
She saw it for herself after her first Ateneo-De La Salle University rivalry game in the UAAP, where the fans showered them with support before, during, and after the game.
"I remember my first year, I was so shocked just because after the game, it wasn't even during the game, after when we went back to the bus, and there was like hundreds of people outside just waiting," Tolentino said during a recent appearance in the "So She Did!" podcast.
Tolentino was amazed at how the fans waited for them after the game, even though it took them quite a while to get out of the venue.
"They were all just waiting there. It's already getting dark, it's past dinner time," she said. "They're just waiting for us to just say hi or just get an autograph. That's one of the most shocking things."
"The fans are so supportive, they're so dedicated to supporting Ateneo, and everyone that they're willing to wait that long after they've been waiting, they've been in the arena for so long," she added. "I'm just thankful for that, just because it's not just like, it doesn't just show that they're trying to watch the game, that's it."
"They also want to meet us and they want to say hi, so I'm thankful to have experienced that."
Scenes like that are just one of the things that Tolentino misses about the Philippines. The Ateneo opposite hitter has been in Canada for the past few months, since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak that forced the cancellation of the UAAP season.
Another thing that she misses? The grind of the season.
"I definitely miss the practices," she admitted. "Just like, not even volleyball, but like, the weights room."
"I've realized how much I took it for granted. I just miss having a gym or a simple volleyball net that you can play," she added. "The grind, being with your teammates, and just having that routine."
Tolentino helped the Lady Eagles win the UAAP Season 81 championship, winning Best Opposite Hitter honors along the way. After initially deciding to focus on her club career, she opted to return to Ateneo for her final season of eligibility, but they played just two games before the season was called off because of the health crisis.
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