In just three years, the UP Lady Maroons have gone from being the league’s punchline to being a serious Final Four contender.
Having almost made the Final Four in UAAP Season 77, the UP community was abuzz with hope for Season 78. As the off-season went by and UP unveiled their new additions, the UP hype continued to inflate.
While others would fold under the pressure, UP’s team captain Kathy Bersola relishes the thought of playing with a purpose.
“Medyo nakakapanibago but at the same time nakaka-inspire din siya. Nakikita namin na marami nang tao na nagtitiwala at sumusuporta sa team. It gives us an extra boost. Ang goal rin naman talaga namin is to make the Final Four so why not get an extra push from other people?”, the former Makati Science High School scholar said.
Last Sunday, Bersola made her highly-anticipated return from an ACL tear that had sidelined her midway through last season. She scored seven points in limited time in a straight sets win over the UE Lady Warriors. Although she had already played in off-season tournaments, Bersola still couldn’t believe she had made it back from the gruelling rehabilitation.
“Kanina feeling ko lumilipad ako. Honesty, parang di ako nawala. At the same time marami akong adjustments na ginawa kahit ganoon ‘yung feeling ko. And masaya – ‘yung feeling na you’ve been through hell and back successfully. Parang na-resurrect ka,” a cheerful Bersola expressed after the match.
Bersola learned a lot from her time off – to be patient, to be resilient and, most importantly, to relax.
“Isa sa mga reasons kung bakit ako na-injure was masyado akong tense to the point na nagco-constrict na ‘yung mga muscles ko. So I learned to relax and really take care of my body.”
When she had first chosen to study in UP, Bersola hadn’t even wanted to play competitive volleyball. From a walk-in recruit to the captain of the best UP squad since Season 65 (the last time they made the Final Four), Bersola is still amazed at where she is now.
“Sobrang fulfilling lang. Kasi ngayong college hindi talaga ako dapat magtutuloy ng volleyball, recreational na lang talaga dapat. Kasi nga wala naman akong narating, perse, noong high school ako – hanggang sa school lang talaga,” Bersola reflected.
“So getting to this point in time, sobrang surreal siya. Hindi ako makapaniwala na naka-apat na taon na ako sa UP tapos nasa first six ako tapos team captain pa ako. Sobrang hirap paniwalaan kahit nangyayare na siya right now.”
Bersola credits most of her personal and her team’s success to head coach Jerry Yee. Bersola believes Season 78 is their best chance to pay back Yee’s efforts.
“Matagal na naming goal ‘yung mag-Final Four – kakapasok pa lang ni coach Jerry, ayoon na agad ‘yung goal namin. So sinasabi niya sa amin na ngayon wala nang excuses. Kung noong first year niya, pwedeng excuse was bagong coach, bagong system, noong second year maraming injuries, ngayon wala ng gaanong excuse. The time is now.”
The Lady Maroons get an early test against last year’s finalists DLSU Lady Spikers on Saturday, February 6, 2p.m. at the PhilSports Arena.