The University of Santo Tomas Tigresses have had cause for optimism as of late.
Having looked hopeless at the start of the season at 0-3, the Tigresses went 4-1, including an uplifting win over the De La Salle University Lady Spikers.
Team captain Ej Laure has blossomed along the way. Earlier in the season, Laure admitted that she had had trouble adjusting to leading the team. It was evident in her production, as her point totals took a dip from last season.
Ever since their streak started, however, Laure has put in the work. She has tallied at least 20 points thrice in their 3-1 streak, providing UST a much-needed offensive boost.
“Hindi ko naman siya mina-mind,” Laure said about the pressure of being the skipper. “Ang role ko is to score for the team aside from leading. Mas nagiging comfortable na ako with doing both.”
UST has several veterans in the lineup, but the sophomore Laure has no problem getting her seniors to follow her lead.
“Hindi nagiging problem ‘yun kasi close talaga kami ng mga seniors sa team. Wala talagang problema with anyone na ako ‘yung team captain.”
Contrary to popular belief, Laure was the top candidate for team captain this season. The ACL injury of last season’s captain Pam Lastimose had no effect on coach Kungfu Reyes’ choice.
“Makikita mo talaga kay EJ ‘yung potential not only sa paglalaro pati na rin sa capacity niya as a leader,” said Reyes, who had coached Laure when she was still with the UST Junior Tigresses.
“Noong una talaga may mga adjustments pa siyang kinailangan gawin pero so far naipapakita niya na worth it ‘yung trust naming mga coaches sa kanya. Kapag naging mas consistent pa siya, maganda para sa team moving forward kasi maraming season pa naman si Ej sa UAAP.”
Laure admits that the recent spike in her teammates’ play has relieved a lot of the pressure on her. She’s not only proud of her fellow Bisaya and MVP candidate Cherry Rondina, but also of her Juniors teammate Tin Francisco.
Now that expectations are again high for the Tigresses, Laure vows that the team will relentlessly hold on to every bit of the momentum they have built.
“Ngayong 4-4 na kami, hindi na namin palalampasin ‘to. Marami kaming pinaghirapan sa training para makabalik sa level na ito, kaya lalo lang kaming magwo-work hard pa for the second round.”
The Tigresses take on DLSU again on Saturday, 4 p.m. at the FilOil Flying V Centre. Aware of La Salle’s vaunted ire in rematches, Laure is confident that the team can still head into the match with the confidence they had before.
“Last game, sobrang naghirap kami para matalo sila. Alam namin na that’s the type of effort na kailangan para maging successful. Alam namin kaya namin hugutin ‘yun. It’s just about the preparation and execution heading into that game.”