It doesn’t take long for Filipinos to endear themselves to someone else, especially with incredibly talented volleyball players.
Cignal HD’s star import, Ariel Usher has endeared herself to the locals – fans and teammates alike -, leading her team to an undefeated run through the PSL Superliga Grand Prix’s first round. Standing staunchly at 6’1”, the University of Portland standout has devastated defenses with arm-crushing attacks from the open area, resulting to three 30-point outings which includes a tournament-high 36 points in their last win against the RC Cola Air Raiders. Her speed and length also help greatly in her all-around game.
Having coached a volleyball program herself, Usher has a high standard for herself. For example, after scoring 36 points in her last match, she told the media that there were a lot of things she thought she could’ve done better.
“I honestly had no idea how many points I scored. I’m hard on myself; I don’t like to make a lot of mistakes… and I made a lot of mistakes. But hey, as long as it helped the team, I’m good with it and I have to forgot about it,” she said. It also seems that her outlook has rubbed-off on her teammates. “The vibe in the locker room was a little disappointed mostly because we were expecting to play a better game than we did. It just seemed that we weren’t all on the same page until the last set of the match. Obviously, everyone’s really happy that we swept through the first round, management’s been telling us that they’re really happy,” she continued when asked about the win against RC Cola.
Last season, Petron also swept through the Grand Prix first round and rode the momentum from the sweep all the way to a title. This season, the HD Spikers have amassed clutch wins against the league’s elite, defeating both fellow contenders Petron and Philips Gold in five pulsating sets. Though her 30-point games have attracted the headlines, Usher was quick to credit the team’s coaching staff led by the fiery Sammy Acaylar fo the team’s success. “I account most of our wins to our coaches, they do an awesome job scouting. We don’t take any team lightly, we definitely do our homework. In practice, we prepare for the way a specific team plays and they bring in people to emulate how a specific person plays for our opponent and it’s really amazing and really helpful.”
She also lauds the stellar effort of the team’s locals so far. “Our team’s amazing. We don’t have anyone on the bench who can’t come in an do their jobs. Everyone’s prepared and it really makes a huge impact on the team.” She says that she is no stranger to bearing the offensive load for a team as she was the tallest player in her high school team. But, she admits that for this team, she feels like she relies on her teammates more than they do on her. “My teammates definitely create a lot of seems for me to attack and our setter [April Hingpit] is amazing she’s super smat. So I definitely feel that I rely on my teammates more than they do on me.”
As for adjusting to playing in the Philippines, Usher seems to be fitting in really well. Her home city, Portland, is known for having a lot of rain throughout the year so the recent passing of Typhoon Lando didn’t bother her at all. For now, she’s looking forward to the mid-season break which she and the team will use to get some sight-seeing done.
“Actually, our management said that the we could go to some beaches over here, you guys have stunning beaches and we’re looking forward to getting out of the city and the pollution,” she gleefully told.
Before the HD Spikers go sight-seeing, they have one more match on their slate, their second-round opener against the Petron Blaze Spikers later today.
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