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No Rest for the Wicked: Soltones guns for first championship



The San Sebastian College Lady Stags don’t have the same aura of invincibility as the Lady Stags of past.

This batch of Lady Stags could easily pass as civilians rather than the unbeatable machination they are now. With perhaps their smallest lineup in years, the San Sebastian Lady Stags tore through the NCAA Season 91 Women’s Volleyball elimination round earned an outright Finals berth.

Their decorated head coach, Roger Gorayeb, insists that this team’s success is based more on overall teamwork and constant learning rather than muscle. “Mas determined ‘yung buong team this year. Makikita mo simula pa lang ng training naman bago magsimula ‘yung season mas gigil ‘yung mga bata gumaling,” he said after gaining the sweep.

With 22 NCAA Women’s titles to his name, Gorayeb knows that team chemistry and balance is imperative for any program. But it can’t be denied how reigning MVP Gretchel Soltones nearly single-handedly lifted her team to the Finals.

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times No Rest for the Wicked: Soltones guns for first championship

This season, the National Team mainstay already has a handful of 30-point outbursts to her name. When up against a fellow contender, Soltones elevated her play even more. She was the only Lady Stag to average double-digits in scoring, leading the league in points scored through the elimination round. Even when she rotated to the back row, Soltones still devastated opposing defenses with a mean back row spike or with her signature sling-shot jump serve.

By no means are the Lady Stags a one-woman team; they’re just not as good without Soltones. This season, Soltones missed a match against the cellar-dwelling Mapua Lady Cardinals and the Lady Stags needed five sets to put away their then winless foes. The deciding set even went to a deuce, with the Lady Cardinals coughing up consecutive errors that gave San Sebastian the match.

“Team sport naman po talaga ang volleyball, hindi naman ako makakapalo kung hindi ako mabibigyan ng magandang set, hindi rin naman po makakapagset ng maayos kung hindi kami makakakuha ng magandang pasa,”
said Soltones, also the team’s skipper.

“Malaki po talaga ‘yung effort ng mga teammates ko para gumaling this year. Lahat po kami intense at focused kapag ensayo. Lagi ko po silang kinakausap tuwing game na maging confident lang sa kahit anong gawin nila.”

What the Lady Stags have accomplished is quite a feat. Rarely does a team with just one clear-cut offensive threat finish on the top of the heap.

Still, Gorayeb maintains that this was a result of his team’s emphasis on defense. “Marami naman kasing paraan manalo sa volleyball. Oo, importante ‘yung height pero may iba pang mga skill na pwedeng I-develop para manalo. Tulad namin, dinadaan na lang namin sa bilis at depensa. Lagi ko ngang sinasabi, kailangan laging gamitin ‘yung utak pag naglalaro,” the National Team mentor stressed.

Holding a decisive thrice-to-beat incentive in their upcoming Finals series against the College of Saint Benilde Lady Blazers, Soltones knows they still can’t relax if they want to end the school’s four-year wait for a title – the longest drought experienced by the program ever since Gorayeb took over.
Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times No Rest for the Wicked: Soltones guns for first championship
“Malakas rin po talaga ‘yung Benilde. Malalaki sila tapos beterano na rin maglaro. Sa team po namin ngayon, wala pang nakaka-experience ng championship. Puro Finals lang tapos matatalo. Marami na kaming natutunan sa experience na ‘yon. Kailangan makapaghanda kami ng maigi,” the 19 year old Open Hitter expressed.

When asked if she feels fatigued at all after all the heavy lifting she’s done, Soltones confidently answered, “Hindi ko naman po nararamdaman ngayon ‘yung pagod. Siguro pagkatapos ng season. Ngayon hindi ko muna iniisip ‘yun. Kailangan mag-champion kami.”


Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball - from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado's setting.

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