Lai Bendong has experienced the worst as a Lady Warrior – from being benched to figuring in two winless seasons.
And so she could not believe that she leads the league in excellent sets per set with only three game days remaining in the UAAP Season 81 Women’s Volleyball Tournament.
“‘Yung feeling ko kasi talaga, kumbaga hindi ako naniniwala. Parang feeling ko din na, ‘Talaga ba?’ Kasi minsan kasi sa laro, makikita mo talaga, wala akong set, ‘yung mga spiker ko ang naga-adjust,” said the Iligan City-native who averages 7.09 excellent sets – just a few ticks ahead of reigning Best Setter, Ateneo’s Deanna Wong (6.42).
“‘Yung standing man ngayon na nasa number one ako, feeling ko nun, nakaka-proud. Para siya sa mga teammates ko actually, kasi sila talaga naga-adjust sa set ko. Kasi ako din, personally, alam ko sa sarili ko, hindi talaga maganda ‘yung set ko.”
Bendong was quick to credit batchmates and Iligan natives open hitter Judith Abil and libero Kath Arado. The trio have been playing together since high school. Bendong knows that Abil’s and Arado’s staunch backrow work has allowed her to command the second touch.
“Siguro kasi, kapa na kami ni Kath, tsaka ni Judith, teammate kami since high school.
“So parang alam na namin ‘yung mga bola. Lalo na pag si Kath, nasa first row na ako, hindi na ako gagalaw eh,” gushed the product of Iligan City National High School.
Arado and Abil appear in the top 10 in both digging and receiving. Arado currently leads both categories, while Abil ranks fifth in digging (4.22 digs per set) and fourth in receiving (42.04%).
Admittedly, Bendong sometimes feels remorseful when she fails to set a ball from one of Arado’s daredevil saves or precise digs.
“Sa part ko sobrang pressure ‘yun, lalo na pag na-puto ni Kath, tapos ako magse-set, tapos bigla ko mado-double.
“Sa part ko parang, ‘Hala Kath, sorry, sorry.’ Sobrang pressure din kasi maganda ang receive nila talaga, kaya kailangan ko mag-double time na i-set na maganda,” she shared.
UE sit in seventh in the standings with a 3-9 record and two games remaining. Whether she wins Best Setter or not, Bendong will consider her final year a success if UE get out of the bottom of the standings for the first time since Season 74.
“Sa akin, parang nakaka-pressure talaga siya. ‘Pag example, nakuha ko ‘yung award, siguro blessing na lang din ‘yun ni Lord, kasi ang goal lang namin talaga, umangat lang kami sa ranking namin. Hindi na namin inisip ‘yung individual award.”
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