Jennifer Nierva loves to talk.
She talks to the media about National University’s resiliency in a turbulent UAAP Season 81 campaign. She talks just when a post-game press con is about to end, unprovoked, to acknowledge her coach Norman Miguel’s creativity. She talks to her fans on Twitter and Instagram. She talks to keep morale up in the locker room after losses. She talks inside the court, almost as much as she does off it.
She talks partly because she loves to, but mostly because that’s what her team needs.
“After the game, kinausap ko agad ‘yung team. Sabi ko, ‘Ates, I have something to say. I’m still happy even though we lost today kasi maganda ‘yung pinakita natin, and nakita ko na nahihirapan sila’,” the 5-foot-4 libero recalled, right after the Lady Bulldogs dropped their eighth match in 11 outings in Season 81.
“I think achievement na rin kasi 10-1 na sila (Ateneo). Happy naman po ako kahit na ganoon ‘yung result kasi I know na we learned something from this.”
For all her talking, Nierva also does a lot of walking. The four-time UAAP Juniors champion with Nazareth School of National University is currently in the top three in both receiving and digging, behind veterans like Kath Arado and Buding Duremdes. It’s not a stretch to assume that she could be collegiate volleyball’s best libero within the next couple of years.
But it’s rare for a rookie like Nierva to have the guts and awareness to take on a leadership role. Her fellow rookies Princess Robles and Ivy Lacsina have been just as important to NU’s revamped system, but neither are as expressive. NU’s seniors have also all never absorbed major leadership roles in the past.
Nierva is bred from success. She learned what it takes to win from her high school coach Babes Castillo. And she knows that it takes more than volleyball skill to win games.
“I think ‘yung leadership kasi pinagtatrabahuhan siya and ‘di siya nakukuha basta-basta, kailangan din ng maturity. I think ‘yun ang nakuha ko noong high school. Sa women’s division, lagi ko lang ginagamit ‘yung nakuha ko from coach Babes (Castillo). Siya ‘yung nag-mold sa akin and ibang teammates ko na maging leader. Pinakita niya sa amin kung paano at ano dapat ginagawa ng isang leader,” the NU lifer shared.
“Si coach Babes kasi, vocal siyang tao. Pinakita niya sa amin ‘yung outside the box, ‘yung more than volleyball. Natutunan ko siguro kung paano ka magpasalamat sa ibang tao sa kung ano ‘yung mga effort na ginagawa. It’s effort ng bawat isa; kung ano ako ngayon, ino-honor ko si coach Babes and coach Aaron Velez,” the 19-year-old continued.
“Vocal akong tao. Ganoon ‘yung gusto ko – na kapag gusto mong manalo, gusto kong marinig from you. Kapag nilabas mo siya, siyempre, papatunayan mo. After mo magsalita, gagawin mo na.”
As NU wind down their season, Nierva speaks of playing for more than the individual self.
“I think ang dadalhin namin is ‘yung pride ng team, ‘yung pride ng school. Hindi ibig sabihin na natalo kami, wala na kaming gagawin, siyempre, every game kailangan io-honor mo ‘yung team, school, and tao na sumusuporta sa’yo. Natutunan namin ‘yun since high school is to inspire other people. Hindi namin alam kung sino nanonood sa amin,” she said.
“Ang goal namin is ‘pag nakikita nila kaming maglaro, ma-inspire sila.”