In a season teeming with high-potential rookies, La Salle’s Jolina Dela Cruz officially made a name for herself.
Dela Cruz played terrifically in the pressure cooker that is an Ateneo-La Salle match, pouring in 11 points and helping the Lady Spikers to their first win in the UAAP Season 81 Women’s Volleyball Tournament.
The 19-year-old was well-kept secret since the Lady Spikers did not play in any televised tournament in the months leading to the season.
While UST’s Eya Laure, Ateneo’s Vanie Gandler, and FEU’s Lycha Ebon all had their moments in either the PVL or PSL, Dela Cruz was tucked away in La Salle’s Razon Sports Complex, only playing in the Dumaguete UniGames.
A member of the 2017 Philippine team that went to the Asian School Games, Dela Cruz drew comparisons to La Salle greats Ara Galang and Cha Cruz with her all-around play.
“Well as a rookie, siguro para sa akin nasa sixty-percent ang laro kanina. Expected ko na yun kasi bago sa kanya lahat ng nangyayari. Siguro ‘yung dami ng crowd, ‘yung ingay ng crowd,” shared the 11-time UAAP champion coach.
“Sabi ko nga kanina after ng second set, ‘Jolina, sobrang confused mo na kasi ang likot na ng mata mo.’ Ni-remind ko lang siya, ‘Kailangan ko lang ng makakatulong sa loob. Kailangan ko ng tulong mo.’ Yun lang ang sinabi ko sa kanya.”
For her part, Dela Cruz is thankful to be a part of a storied program like La Salle.
“Honor po yun sa akin, na sinama po ako ni coach sa starter.
“‘Yun po, parang sobrang kailangan po talaga sa lahat ng gagawin mo, confident ka. Sobrang thankful po ako na kasama ako dito, at alam ko kailangan ako ng team,” beamed the 5-foot-9 Bulacan-native.
With the Ateneo match out of the way, Dela Cruz can be confident that one of the most challenging part of the season is out of the way.
“Siguro po parang masyado po akong nadala, and nire-remind naman po nila ako na ‘Jolina, balik ka, kaya mo yan. Andiyan ang mga ate mo, hindi ka nila iiwanan,” the Palarong Pambansa champion shared.
“Ko-cover ka nila kahit anong mangyari.’ Ayun, sila coach po lagi nila akong nire-remind na. ‘Focus ka, focus, balik ka lang. Once na magkamali ka may ibang way ka na pwede kang gawin.'”