Kim Fajardo and Alyssa Valdez started out on dusty courts in Batangas then took the University of Santo Tomas Junior Golden Tigresses to three UAAP Juniors titles. Last Saturday, they faced off for the last time in the UAAP.
In front of a gallery of nearly 23,000 fans at the historic Smart Araneta Coliseum, the good friends slugged it out for all the marbles. After two years of heartbreak, it was Fajardo’s turn to raise the UAAP championship, steering the De La Salle University Lady Spikers over Valdez’s Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles.
In their final collegiate game, Valdez scored 31 points while Fajardo matched it with 51 excellent sets, 11 digs, and six markers.
This season’s Best Setter was elated after winning her second UAAP title. She admitted that the past two seasons had been rough for her and the team, reaching the Finals only to fall the Lady Eagles.
“Wala akong nararamdaman kung hindi saya. Lalo na kapag naaalala ko yung mga pinagdaanan namin. Kaya talagang pinangako namin sa isa’t isa na iba na this year, kailangan manalo na,” Fajardo told Tiebreaker Times.
Watching her best friend try to carry Ateneo one last time, Fajardo could not help but be emotional herself.
As the match progressed, Valdez was visibly worn down, almost hobbling through every point. But still, Valdez persisted through La Salle’s tough defense. “Siyempre pagod din siya, nakita naman natin ang game niya,” Fajardo said about Valdez.
After the match, the two immediately rushed to center court and shared a heartfelt hug before joining their respective teams.
“Sabi ko lang sa kanya, alam naman nating lahat na marami na siyang na-prove. Mag-start siya ng bagong career niya. Wala na ang UAAP, pero ‘yun lang naman ang mawawala, though malaking part ng buhay niya ang UAAP,” Fajardo comforted the sobbing Valdez. “Pero siyempre, Alyssa Valdez pa rin siya, and alam pa rin niya sa sarili niya kung ano ang kaya niyang gawin.”
— Alyssa Valdez (@AlyssaValdez2) May 1, 2016
Fajardo added that she keeps in touch with Valdez even though they decided to go to separate schools. “Magkaiba lang kami ng school, pero sobrang close pa rin kami,” said Fajardo. “Nagsasabihan kami kapag may problema, kakausapin namin ang isa’t isa.”
“Normal friends,” she explained. “Pag sa labas, walang usapan ng volleyball. Walang usapan na magkalaban tayo. Sa court lang lahat ‘yun talaga.”
As Valdez moves on to a professional career, Fajardo is still unsure if she’ll play her final year of eligibility for the Green and White.