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Killer smile takes on new meaning with Rookie MVP Belen

It was right before Game Two of the UAAP 84 Women’s Volleyball Finals. It was the title-clincher. The win would complete a clean sweep of the season.

The jam-packed crowd was 12,621-strong – mostly in blue. It was a crowd there for her, for the most part.

She had just won Most Valuable Player. And Best Outside Spiker. And Rookie of the Year. She had just promised to bring back the championship to Sampaloc – essentially guaranteeing the perfect season for National University.

All in all, the pressure cooker was turned on. Even more so for a 19-year-old who was just in her first year at the collegiate level.

But no, the moment didn’t seem too big for Bella Belen. Not at all.

Clutching her three trophies with her left arm and holding the microphone with her right hand, she became an arena barker after being hailed as RoY-MVP.

“Number 17, Faith Nisperooos!” “Number 3, Theaaa Gagateee!” She introduced her collegiate rivals, the latter of whom she had to beat to claim the crown. Both of whom were actually her teammates in high school. She was smiling. She was always smiling.

The smile got wider, and the joy burst out more once she got to her next introductions. “Number 8, Sheenaaa Toring!” “Number 12, Alyssa Solomooon!” “Jersey number 13, ang pinaka-cute sa NU, Camilla Lamina!” “Jersey number 9, Jennifer Nierva!” In between calling for her teammates and co-awardees to join her, she was jumping round and round.

It looked like she was having fun. And why wouldn’t she? She had just made history as the first-ever rookie to be hailed as the best player in women’s volleyball. She needed just three more sets to end a 65-year title drought for her school. At the same time, though, that smile, that never-ending smile, didn’t mean she wasn’t serious.

Belen was, in fact, dead serious. All the Lady Bulldogs were.

Back in the first round, following their first win against De La Salle University in the season – which was just their third in three tries, in all – she was in tears. There was no smile on her face during their school hymn. What she had on were soaked eyes and glistening cheeks. In the third match of the tournament.UAAP-Season-84-Womens-Volleyball-NU-vs-UST-Michaela-Belen-1-2-scaled Killer smile takes on new meaning with Rookie MVP Belen News NU UAAP Volleyball  - philippine sports news

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The Lady Spikers have long been the gold standard. National U and its core which came from its very own winning high school program are also very much familiar with the green and white, against whom they battled for high school supremacy. Whether they admit it or not, duels opposite La Salle mean more. Mean much more.

“Yung ibang school po like La Salle, (maganda) na po ang history nila. Ang NU, ‘di pa nag-champion in 65 years,” she expressed.

“Kaya sobrang happy po akong nakuha namin yung championship with my teammates na yun din ang goal: mag-make ng history at magbigay ng glory sa NU.”

Indeed, in their championship run, Belen and company sent a statement that the Lady Bulldogs are here, and they are here to stay. Much of that came at the expense of the Lady Spikers, who fell victim to her average of 14.8 points in four games. Thanks to her all-around brilliance, as well as their total team effort, of course, Ramil De Jesus and his girls got shut out. At the end of it all, in head-to-head matchups, the set scores read: National U 12, La Salle 0.

She was dead serious, but she did all that to La Salle – as well as her 218-point total to the seven opposing squads – while smiling. While showing her dual dimples. And sometimes, putting her tongue out to the left side of her mouth, then winking with either eye. She doesn’t mean to be disrespectful. Not at all. All those smiles are just her way of venting out the competitive fire lit up within her.

“Ako po kasi, hindi ako nag-iisip ng negative thoughts. Wala naman po kasing magagawa yung mga yun, for me,” she shared, with a smile, of course, what else with?!

“Ginagawa ko rin po yun para mahawa yung teamamtes ko, para masaya kami all the time. May tiwala kami sa isa’t-isa na kahit anong mangyari, kaya namin.”

Funnily enough, Belen claims that she isn’t necessarily a smiling face. To those with whom she spends time away from the Taraflex, she isn’t like that at all. It’s just that her love for volleyball can do nothing but make its presence felt each and every time she steps onto the mat.UAAP-84-WVB-NU-vs.-UP-Mhicaela-Belen-9675-scaled Killer smile takes on new meaning with Rookie MVP Belen News NU UAAP Volleyball  - philippine sports news

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“Sa bahay, sa kwarto lang po ako. Actually, tahimik lang po ako,” she stated, with a sly smile, letting reporters guess whether or not she’s telling truth. “Siguro lang po, sobrang love ko lang ang volleyball kaya sobrang happy ko pag naglalaro.”

And so, after hammering down a hit, she’s smiling. Following a jump serve that drops just where she wants it to, she’s letting her pearly whites shine. During post-win press conferences, she gives grins and makes faces at the camera – with all interviews being done through Zoom, of course. And when she finally got face-to-face with reporters, right after National U finally got to break the bubble and enter the media area itself? All smiles. Genuine smiles. Infectious smiles.

Without a doubt, Belen brings a breath of fresh air with her, as an athlete who has no qualms about showing she’s having fun. And all in all, wears her emotions for all the world to see. We have yet to know how she’d look following a loss, but safe to say, she’d be expressing herself if and when that time comes. She’s true to herself, so much so that she just couldn’t help but turn into a fan when asked how she’d be celebrating the championship.VNL-2022-Japan-vs.-Argentina-Ran-Takahashi-9247-1 Killer smile takes on new meaning with Rookie MVP Belen News NU UAAP Volleyball  - philippine sports news

“Ay, may kwento po ako!” she answered, with no hesitation, when asked about the first order of business for her after she finally gets to leave their dorms for the first time in months.

“Before training (for Game 2), naka-video call ko si Ran [Takahashi of Japan]. Lamang na po ako sa pila! May tickets na po ako for VNL sa 24, 25, 26. Sabi ko nga po, ‘di ako papayag na umalis sila ng Philippines na wala akong picture!”

Yes, one of the priorities for the now-RoY-Best Outside Spiker-MVP-and-champion is to watch the Volleyball Nations League 2022 inside the Araneta Coliseum. She’s already proven she can have fun on the court, why not also be happy beside it, right?

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Make no mistake, though, when it’s time to get back to work, she’d be on time to get back to work. She can have fun all she wants, but at the same time, there’s no doubt that she delivers – and will keep delivering – the goods. In just her first year for the Lady Bulldogs, she brought home to them three individual trophies and the big, big one as well. And yet, she’s far from satisfied.

“Kailangan, magtrabaho pa po ako at hindi huminto sa kung anong nakuha ko ngayon. Kada araw, may pinapanganak sa amin na mas magaling so dapat, hindi ako nasa-satisfy sa kung anong meron ako,” she remarked.

“Rookie-MVP ako ngayon, pero may mas gagaling pa sa akin, so dapat, balik lang sa trabaho at hindi titigil.”

That goes for all of National U, as well. When your top gun – or, more pointedly, the first among equals – is ready and raring to take on greater expectations, it follows that so should you.

“‘Di kami titigil porket nag-16-0 sweep na kami. I believe pong meron pang pwedeng ilabas ang NU kasi sobrang hardworking namin lahat,” she shared.

“Sa training namin, hindi po nagpapatalo lahat. Maganda yun kasi natutulungan namin yung isa’t-isa na mag-improve.”

With all she had won last Tuesday, it’s hard to imagine that Bella Belen would want much more. But she does. With the all-around brilliance she showed throughout the tournament, it’s hard to imagine that she could be better. But she will. And she’ll be doing so, with a smile.UAAP-Season-84-Womens-Volleyball-Awarding-MVP-NU-Mhicaela-Belen-1-scaled Killer smile takes on new meaning with Rookie MVP Belen News NU UAAP Volleyball  - philippine sports news

All UAAP games stream live on GigaPlay presented by Yamaha. Download it now on Android or IOS.SMART-x-Yamaha Killer smile takes on new meaning with Rookie MVP Belen News NU UAAP Volleyball  - philippine sports news

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