“It just wasn’t my time yet.”
Jamie Lavitoria clung to that belief when she was still donning the blue and white for Ateneo in the UAAP a few years ago.
After all, she played the role of second fiddle to Jia Morado — easily one of the best setters in the age-old league’s history — during their time together in Katipunan.
“Before, when I was playing under Jia and we were batchmates pa, I always believed that it just wasn’t my time yet. It was always a healthy competition with Jia. There was never an awkward [moment], it was never awkward. We’re close, we’re batchmates,” Lavitoria confided in an interview following Ateneo’s grueling training session at the Blue Eagle Gym, Tuesday.
“So I realized na as long as I continue working hard, I continue doing my job, whatever at that time coach Tai wanted me to do, my time would come.”
True enough, the 5-foot-10 playmaker was nothing short of relentless back then.
Despite spending most of her collegiate years under the shadow of Morado, it wasn’t enough of a reason not to give it her all. She vehemently worked on her craft when no one was watching, developing the mental toughness to keep going no matter the circumstances.
“I realized that there are people out there that, you know, expect, you know… They think na, ‘Oh my time is gonna come’ but they don’t actually do the work put into it,” she shared.
“So it’s those moments where my mom always taught me na, ‘Your true character is how you play when no one’s watching.’ So, I believe that and I realized, okay, now, I realized at the time when I was with coach Tai — patience, patience.”
But Lavitoria saw her patience put to the test when her collegiate stint came to a halt following Ateneo’s unceremonious exits in Season 78 and 79. Still, she pressed on even when the going got rough. This then led to her career-altering move to Generika-Ayala in the PSL.
There, Lavitoria came into her own. The Lifesavers entrusted her with the keys to their offense amid tougher competition. She saw a spike in playing time while soaking in plenty of valuable experiences in the process.
“Sa akin naman, sa performance niya, sa attitude niya, one-hundred percent saludo ako sa batang ‘yan,” Generika-Ayala head coach Sherwin Meneses beamed.
“Talagang magaling naman ‘yung bata talaga.”
Then, an opportunity came knocking on Lavitoria’s door several years later.
“When I was approached [to return to Ateneo] a few months ago, I was actually full of emotions. I was going back and forth of deciding whether I should come back or not. I realized na decisions like this can’t be made overnight. And I realized na this is not just about volleyball, but it’s also my life,” she recalled.
“And when I wanna look back in five years, do I wanna think, ‘Oh, did I make that brave decision of coming back or did I say no and have regret after?” she continued. “So when deciding, I really thought na I’m gonna join this team because I want to help.”
Having gone through tough times brought a sense of maturity to Lavitoria. And she’s looking to channel all of that in UAAP Season 82 to pave the path for Ateneo’s promising future.
“In any aspect of being on this team and being the eldest, I knew that I had a major role of being a leader, not just on the court but off the court,” she confided.
“When I saw that there were a bunch of rookies, when I saw that they are so young, I realize that’s the more that I should be here.
“I realize that the girls need guidance in any way possible. It’s their first year, and everyone’s first year, it has its ups and downs,” she furthered.
It remains to be seen whether or not her “time” has finally come. But one thing is certain — Lavitoria is going to seize the moment as a Lady Eagle for one last time.
“My main goal is obviously to get that back to back. My other goal is…” She made an abrupt pause, taking a while to gather her thoughts while staring at her younger teammates. “Maybe to continue to guiding the team and inspiring the team. Not just the team, but also people that wanna play with Ateneo.
“I’m just so grateful to be part of this lineup again. I honestly had no idea that I was gonna go back. I was playing in pro na but, you know, in the Bible it says, ‘Ask and you shall receive.’ It was always in my head, but when it actually came to me, I was like — I believed that I deserved it, in a way. But yeah, I’m really happy.”
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