There is no denying that Far Eastern University is one of the strongest teams in the UAAP Season 82 men’s volleyball tournament, parading an intact crew that has valuable championship experience under its belt.
But when the Tamaraws faced a tough stand from University of the East in their curtain-raiser on Tuesday, it wasn’t a veteran who stepped up to the plate to restore order. Instead, a rookie seized the opportunity to introduce himself to the collegiate scene.
Trailing 21-23 late in the decisive third set, JJ Javelona took the scoring cudgels and strapped FEU on his back. He turned unstoppable, unfurling four consecutive points to lift his team on the high side.
“Hiningi ko po ‘yung bola tapos sabi ko sa team ‘Malayo pa ‘yan. Hindi pa tapos’. Hindi nagtatapos ang volleyball ng twenty-three,” said Javelona, who displayed will beyond his years.
“Walang imposible. Nakuha namin ‘yung game sunod-sunod ‘yung score.”
Javelona spearheaded FEU’s charge with 11 points on an efficient 10-of-20 clip.
The former Baby Tamaraw showed that he can go on par with his veteran teammates. This, despite the lofty expectations surrounding his debut after earning MVP honors in the league’s Season 81 Boys’ Division.
“Siguro ang expectations nila siguro kasi ‘yun nga, na MVP ako nu’ng high school. Siguro malaki ang expectations nila na mas-aangat pa ako this college,” Javelona admitted.
“Kaya kapag naglaro na ako ng UAAP sa college, mas matibay pa [ako].”
The 19-year-old, Bukidnon-native admitted that his collegiate debut with FEU had been a long time coming.
“Galing po akong FEU-Diliman and na-recruit po nila ako nun sa Palarong Pambansa sa Albay nina coach (Ian) Dela Calzada, tapos sinabihan ako na pumasok sa FEU, mag-aral, maglaro,” he shared.
“Hanggang sa nakapaglaro ako ng UAAP ng tatlong taon sa high school and diretso na ako sa college.”
Despite other universities trying to recruit his services, Javelona refused to exchange his childhood dreams for anything else — especially since most of his idols, including Arvin Avila, once donned the green and gold.
“Kumukuha sa akin noon ang Ateneo. Pero mas pinili ko na ang FEU kasi siyempre noong elementary po ako, FEU na ang nakikita ko sa TV,” Javelona confided.
“Marami akong mga idol doon kaya FEU na ang napili ko.”
But beyond making a name for himself, Javelona insists that his focus is on helping the Tamaraws redeem themselves after a first runners-up finish last season.
“Ang masasabi ko lang ngayong araw, ginawa namin lahat ng makakaya namin para makuha ‘yung game,” he said.
“Konting adjust pa sa team kasi nu’ng third set, parang nagkagulo kami tapos nag-compose kami para makuha ‘yung panalo.”