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Cherry Rondina: the embodiment of Tiger Power

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University of Santo Tomas Tigress Cherry Rondina goes through the entire spectrum of emotions when she plays.

She lets off bitter grimaces when she hits the floor hard, screams and lifts her jersey off her shirt when she makes an error, and sprints almost the entire court when they score. There is no emotional middle ground for the young Cebuana.

UAAP 78 Volleyball UP vs. UST - Rondina-5461

The same goes for the way she approaches every game. While veterans tend to take their time and survey the opponent’s game plan, Rondina storms into every match guns ablaze. She puts Goku-like effort to every spike, regardless of the type of set. And, just like the saiyan, her naivety helps keep her fearless. Finally, UST showed they were still a contender last Wednesday.

The Tigresses’ roller coaster of a first round crested when they shocked everyone with a straight-set win over the De La Salle University Lady Spikers. DLSU had just won their much-anticipated Finals rematch, while UST had dropped their previous match to the young University of the Philippines Lady Maroons.

Against La Salle, every Tigress contributed. There were unsung heroes like Tin Francisco and converted libero Rica Rivera. There were breakout performances from Ej Laure and Alyssa Teope. And Rondina was still there, preying on blockers at least six inches taller than herself.

“Ito ‘yung mag-guide sa amin, na mag-boost talaga sa amin. May sinabi kasi si coach, tao din lang naman sila. Kaya natin. Yan yung nasa isip ko kanina. As part of first six, pinilit kong isa ako sa magtaas sa team,” Rondina told reporters after the match.

The win tossed UST into the crowded race for the last Final Four spots with a 3-4 record, tied with Adamson University and National University, and just below the 4-3 UP and Far Eastern University.

When asked if she thought her energy was beginning to rub off on her teammates, the sophomore scoffed at the notion. She has always known her teammates could play at a similar pace.

“Siguro kanina, yun yung UST talaga. Nagclick kami, pinagtrabahuhan namin,” Rondina said. “Kapag nalalamangan kami, nada-down kami. Na-overcome naman namin kanina.”

When it comes to her ruthless approach, Rondina simply tries to utilize what she has been given, and does not look at her lack of height as a disadvantage.

“Always, talagang sinasabi sa akin ni coach Kungfu (Reyes) na huwag kang matakot. Kung kaya nila, kaya mo rin. Sinusunod ko lang naman kung ano ‘yung sinasabi ni coach,” she expressed.

“Kapag tinignan ko sila, oo nga matangkad. Iniisip ko na may binigay si God sa akin, gagamitin ko ‘yun. Sabihin natin na parang pandak (ako), sinabi ko sa sarili ko na sige, may height sila, may gifts sila. Ako binigyan rin ako ni God ng skills. Kaya kapag ako yung tumungtong jan, ibunuhos ko yung natutunan ko, yung skills ko, yung alam ko sa sarili ko.”

Her tireless play has shown in her stats. She’s the league’s best scorer, second-best server, seventh-best attacker, and fifth-best digger. She has the inside track on the MVP, possibly following in the footsteps of undersized MVPs like Cherry Vivas and Manila Santos.

True to her unassuming nature, Rondina wasn’t even aware there were MVP talks about her.

“Ginagawa ko lang kung ano ‘yung kailangan sa akin ng team every game,” she closed the interview with a smile.

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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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