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Championship vindicates heavily criticized Ivy Perez

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For almost her entire career, Ivy Perez has had to absorb the ire of not only her coaches, but also sharp-tounged fans.

Starting her career with National University, then head coach, Francis Vicente saw potential in the 5’8” opposite hitter and converted her to a setter. Going from a hitting position to arguably the most important position in any volleyball team, Perez needed time to adjust.

Still, the National University Lady Bulldogs made tremendous leaps in UAAP Season 76 with Perez as the main setter, earning a second seed in a stepladder Final Four only to fall to the eventual champions, Ateneo Lady Eagles in the Finals.

However, fans and pundits alike picked apart NU’s need for a better setter, saying the Lady Bulldogs would not win a title if they couldn’t get a better setter.

“Magaling naman talaga si Ivy, ang problema lang talaga sa kanya ay yung confidence niya. Medyo mabilis mawala sa laro,” said former NU head coach, Dong Dela Cruz. “Pero matiyaga yan. Hindi naman magpapapigil nang ganun-ganun lang.”

The past two years had Ivy journey from one team to another. In UAAP 77, Perez was relegated to a backup setter role with newly appointed head coach, Roger Gorayeb opting to start Asi Soliven. She ended up making crucial contributions in NU’s Final Four run but never got her starting position back. Following talks of her possibly not coming back for her final year of eligibility in the UAAP, Perez entered the Philippine Superliga draft where Petron picked her in the second round. The Blaze Spikers used Perez sparingly in their dominant run in the All-Filipino Cup, eventually releasing her after the tournament.

“Expected ko na po talaga na papakawalan ako ng Petron. Kasi ang sunod na po ‘yung Grand Prix and alam ko na pong ibabalik nila si Erica Adachi (Petron’s Brazilian import and former Brazil youth team setter). Kaya naintindihan ko naman din po,” said Perez. “Buti na lang nandiyan po ‘yung Foton at kinuha nila ako.”

Showing Perez that they had trust in her ability, Foton’s coaching staff molded and worked on Perez, using her as their main setter. They had a troublesome start to the season, but Perez eventually picked up her game.

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Championship vindicates heavily criticized Ivy Perez

Peak Ivy Perez was nothing short of spectacular. Her long arms gave opposing hitters trouble when she was in the front row – a luxury in volleyball where setters are usually blocking liabilities. Her left-handed float serves confounded opposing back rows, coming in clutch in Foton’s epic five set victory over heavily-favored Philips Gold in the semifinals.

Facing her old team, Petron, in the Finals, Perez keyed her team to a Game One victory but had a horrendous performance in their Game Two loss. Tossing just eight excellent sets when Adachi had 32, Ivy knew she was in for a few long days before Game Three.

“Alam ko naman po after pa lang noong Game Two na masama ‘yung nilaro ko tapos macri-criticize po ako. Dinaan na lang po namin ng teammates ko and coaches sa ensayo – lahat po ng rotation ng Petron pinag-aralan namin. Sobrang focused po talaga namin na makuha ‘yung championship na wala na po kaming masyadong ibang napansin,” Perez recalled.

It turns out, Foton had another gear that the defending champs could not reach. Game Three, a match people predicted to be a slobber-knocker, turned into a three-set Foton coronation. The Tornadoes came out aggressively and piled early leads on Petron and responded to every Blaze Spikers’ attempt at a comback. Ivy tossed 25 excellent sets and was crowned the conference’s First Best Setter after the match.

Beating the team that released her and redeeming herself resoundingly in Game Three, Perez deflected all praise to her teammates impeccable games and patience with her. “Hindi po talaga ako makakaset ng maganda kung hindi dahil sa mga magaganda nilang pasa. At saka, kahit naman po hindi maganda ‘yung set ko, papaluin pa rin nila,” Perez said.

Perhaps the proudest of Perez among Foton was long-time college teammate Jaja Santiago. “Ang sabi ko lang po talaga kay Ate Ivy, lagi siyang maging confident. Kasi para po sa akin, siya po talaga ang best setter, magaling po talaga siya. Matagal ko na po siyang teammate at kaibigan – confidence lang po talaga ‘yung nagkukulang sa kanya. Nakita niyo naman po ngayong nabigyan siya ng chance dito sa Foton kung gaano siya kagaling,” said the 6’5” middle blocker.

“Para sa akin po, sobrang saya ko lang kasi nasuklian ko ‘yung pagtiyaga sa akin ng mga coaches ko and teammates. Hindi naman po ito magiging posible kung wala sila at hindi nila ako hinubog,” Perez expressed. As for a return to the UAAP, Perez says she is still uncertain as the final decision is up to NU head coach Roger Gorayeb.

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Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball - from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado's setting.

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