Takako Fujimoto’s growth needed to be fast-tracked after Ateneo de Manila University starting setter Jaja Maraguinot’s surprise exit last June.
Maraguinot announced during the Blue Eagles’ Fans Day on June 25 that she will not be returning. She’s now part of Akari in the Premier Volleyball League.
Enter Fujimoto, who’s seen limited action during her rookie year in UAAP Season 84 as a backup for Maraguinot.
All of a sudden, she’s the starter for Ateneo in the 2022 V-League Women’s Collegiate Challenge.
She has been doing a good job and the proof? the Blue Eagles are one win away from the championship after taking Game One of the best-of-three Finals against Adamson, 20-25, 25-21, 25-22, 24-26, 18-16.
“Natutuwa ako doon sa new setter ko na naacknowledge niya yung strength ng team niya kasi it boils down to her,” said Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro after their 2 hours and 25 minutes clash with the Lady Falcons.
“Siya yung bago eh, siya yung new insert dito. Siya yung talagang unexpected na magdedeliver,” he added.
Deliver was what the 21-year-old playmaker did, getting 25 excellent sets while allowing four spikers to reach double figures led by Faith Nisperos’ 35-point explosion.
Vanie Gandler chipped in 20 points, AC Miner got 18, and Lyann De Guzman had 10 in the tight victory.
“She’s not that superstar level like yung setters ng ibang school but I know she can deliver and I have trust in her,” continued Almadro.
“Kung ano man ang size niya, napapalaki naman ng heart niya sa paglalaro,” he said on his 5-foot-5 setter.
Nisperos, the leader of the Blue Eagles, watched as Fujimoto took the challenge.
And the 5-foot-11 open spiker is just awed by the heart of their new starting setter.
“I’m really proud of Takako kasi she embraced the responsibility at a young age in terms of UAAP experience. She’s only been playing one season na hindi pa starting setter,” said Nisperos.
“Marami siyang mahirap na pinagdaanan sa training physically, mentally, emotionally. Pinagdaanan niya na lahat and I’m really proud of how she handles herself and nali-lead niya kami through that.”