Aby Maraño has probably been inspiring the same image in the volleyball fans who have watched her over the years – mouth agape, roaring with the combined glee and ferocity of 300 Spartans after crushing a ball past a determined defense, or after one of her comrades makes a game-saving play.
Maraño plays volleyball with unrivaled passion and dedication, having gone “Beast Mode” way before Lola Nidora started screaming at her Rogelios. So, unsurprisingly, “Tyang” knew she had to respond when her Petron Blaze Spikers dropped Game One of the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix against the Foton Tornadoes.
With her team’s heart and desire questioned, the former UAAP MVP set the tone early in Game Two last Monday, providing the Blaze Spikers with the offense, defense, and Beast-Mode-Don’t-Care spunk that only she could. Petron effectively dissected Foton early in the match for a quick 2-0 sets lead. When the Tornadoes got their act going and seemed on the verge of hijacking the latter half of the match, Maraño was a key steadying force as Petron rose from a late deficit in the fourth set and forced Foton into a deciding Game Three, winner-take-all showdown on Saturday at the Cuneta Astrodome.
Maraño finished the match with 16 points off 12 kills, three blocks, and an ace, while adding eight digs to solidify an impeccable all-around effort. “Feeling ko kasi noong last game (Game One) hindi ganoong katindi ‘yung nabigay ko for the team. I was thirsty to contribute for the team. Kaya sabi ko, first set pa lang, kailangan mag-all out na ako so that maging infectious na ako sa team – na madala ko sila pagiging energetic ko and Beast Mode,” Maraño told reporters after the match.
Having gone so Beast Mode that her hair once went Super Saiyan blonde, Maraño then explained the unwieldy nature of BMDC.
“Kailangan ‘yun (Beast Mode) – you need to intimidate your opponents, kailangan mag-Beast Mode ka sa kalaban hindi sa kakampi. Hinahalo namin ‘yun – I think we were able to balance that,” said Maraño who then recalled an instance during the match when she and libero, Jen Reyes, joked around after a point. “Alam niyo ‘yun? Nagbabaklaan lang kami – nadoon pa din ‘yung pagiging light ng atmosphere sa loob ng court. Kami mismo ‘yung nag-aangasan pero enjoy pa rin. ‘Enjoy Volleyball!’ ‘yung nagiging reminder ng team kapag nagiging tight na kami.”
As one of the country’s best middle blockers, Maraño added that she took inspiration from one of her idols, Thai volleyball star Pleumjit Thinkaow, to get into her defensive mindset. “Sobrang motivated ko sa panonood sa idol kong si Pleumjit kasi dapat parang meron kang iniidolo para may sinusundan kang yapak. Nanonood talaga ako ng mga plays niya, para madala ko rin sa sarili ko kung papaano niya ginagawa ‘yun. Kaya siguro lumabas din sa game – sobrang focused ko sa pag-block ko. And binabalik ko din ‘yung confidence ko kasi that’s what I’m good at.”
Stats and sports jargons aside, Maraño felt the Blaze Spikers simply had the the optimal mindset heading into the match – comparing her team to a platoon of pinned down soldiers. “Siguro hindi lang talaga kami naubusan ng hope and pagod. Labanan na lang kasi ng puso yan – kung sinong gustong kumapit, sinong gustong humabol. Makikita mo talaga sa teammates mo kung sino pa ‘yung gustong lumaban. Whenever you see them fighting, you tell yourself, ‘Ay ‘di ako pwedeng sumuko kasi ‘yung kasama ko buhay pa. Parang ganoon din sa gera, pag nakita mo ‘yung kasama mong palaban, imposibleng hindi ka madadala. Dinala namin ang isa’t isa,” said the decorated college athlete who is known for literally lifting her teammates in sheer jubilation.
When asked about the pressure of playing in a do-or-die Game Three, the former DLSU Lady Spikers team captain expressed her comfort at the bone-crushing atmosphere of such matches. “Siyempre, ang dami ko ng experience sa ganoon, sa mga do-or-die. Sa La Salle pa lang sobrang dami ng pressure, ano pa ‘yung pressure na hindi ko kakayanin? ‘Yun lang ‘yung iniisip ka palagi. Wala na akong pressure na hindi kakayanin hangga’t naniniwala ako sa sarili ko at sa mga kasama ko.”
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