As the spike of her teammate, Bernadeth Pons, did not get over the net, her last service reception, turned out to be her final touch of the volleyball in a UAAP game. The career of arguably one of the league’s best Liberos had reached its end. She stood up, with her relatively small frame, and shook hands with her opponents for the last time. She, then, huddled with her squad in her green uniform amidst all the gold. It is with mixed feelings of disappointment, pride, and relief that Christine Agno will be leaving the Lady Tamaraws as of that moment.
Tin, as she is fondly called by many, has always dreamt of being in the UAAP. Like most in the recent volleyball generation, she watched her idols on TV playing for the Shakey’s V-League. “High school pa lang ako, nakita ko na sila ate Maica noon. Parang, kasi ang liit ko talaga, sabi ko, ‘Ay, baka pwede yung height ko, ganun.’” She referred to FEU’s star middle attacker, Micaela Irish Morada, who despite her lack of height, played effectively, and was able to help her school win a title.
However, Tin recalled that it was not on her mind to go to FEU. Not until a revamp occurred in the Lady Tamaraws’ volleyball team five years ago, which led to then head coach, Nestor Pamilar, off to scour for new recruits. There was no better venue to search for recruits than, at the country’s breeding ground for athletic talent, Palarong Pambansa. Agno shared, “Sakto nag-Palaro kami, at nakuha kami ni Coach Nes.” Right there, Tin weighed her options and thought, “Iba yung sa Manila, iba yung sa La Salle Lipa. So mas pinili ko yung [FEU].”
Thus, she ventured into the Big City. However, adjusting to the new environment was not the only thing she needed to do. She also had to take on a different position in the sport she had been playing for so long. During her high school days at La Salle Lipa she was an open spiker, so her transition to Libero was not easy. “Actually, nung una hirap talaga ako. Parang nung first year ko sa UAAP, ‘tas ako yung Libero, ako yung pinaka-useless na Libero nun kasi wala talaga … yung laro ko parang hindi pang-Libero. Hanggang sa naiinis na yung iba, ‘Ano ba yan, Libero ba yan?’”
Her initial performance in the court could have led to her replacement by another Libero. Thus, Agno persevered to do what she was required of her to stay in the team. “Hanggang second year, Unigames, dapat papalitan na ko pero tsinaga ako ni Coach Shaq.” Such help and motivation pushed Tin to work on her game, and the volleyball public witnessed her results. “Kung hindi ko gugustuhin ‘to, walang mangyayari sa ‘kin. So ginusto ko na yung pwestong yun, trinabaho ko, pinaghirapan ko yun. Tsinaga ko talaga. Tsaka sayang yung opportunity na kinuha ka ng school.”
Such improvement was seen in her game during the following years, as Tin’s name was part of the same discussion as other great defense specialists like Lizlee Ann Gata, Melissa Gohing, and Jen Reyes. During the end of the first round and early in the second round of her last season, Agno was on the list of the Best Diggers and Best Receivers leaders, which is a testament to her dedication as a player.
There was one thing, however, that she was not able to achieve for her team – a stint in the Finals and a chance for the school’s 30th women’s volleyball plum. She regrets this fact. “Siyempre, nanghinayang.” Despite all this, she felt their team did well, especially this season. “Sa sobrang daming pinagdaanan ng team namin ngayon, siguro masaya na kami sa Final Four kasi ang dami nagdream; ilang beses kaming sumabak … ilang beses kaming nag do-or-die, mga tatlo, apat, ganun.” She added, “Kumbaga, yung character na nabuild namin yun yung importante sa min.” She hopes this character will be able to help the people she will leave behind on their pursuit for that championship in the future.
This diminutive talent was actually rumored not to return this season, as she is on her last year of eligibility. However, that desire to help, pushed her to try for another season. “Naisip ko na kailangan pa ako, kailangan pa ako ng mga bata. Alam kong meron pa akong maitutulong kaya ginamit ako.”
This return was fruitful as she was able to help FEU reach the semifinals this year as one of its leaders. “Syempre, masaya ako kasi may naiwan akong legacy sa team na ‘to. Siguro ‘yung nakatulong ako sa kanila bilang ate, ma-change yung attitudes nila, Kumbaga, maging model na bilang ate.”
As Agno bids farewell to the very same team she dreamt of being a part of, she has so much to take away from her stint in the UAAP. “Yung samahan na lang na nabuo sa team na ‘to, kasi iba talaga, sobrang iba talaga; hindi lang siya basta team, higit pa siya sa magkakapatid talaga.” She was also proud that this family of hers has managed to build a reputation. “Kasi ‘yung team namin from wala, hanggang sa ngayon na kahit papano may naiwan rin kaming pangalan.”
And as she moves on to greener pastures, Tin echoed the battle cry of Tamaraws this season as she will go on with life armed with a “brave heart.”
Indeed, Agno will be remembered as the little girl with a big heart – as she does her very best to go against the strong serves and attacks of her opponents just to keep that ball afloat. It is now up for the others to deal with the ball, which Tin has accomplished during her playing years. It is up to the team she is leaving behind to carry on with the title aspirations. The 30th cannot be attained this year, but with Agno’s legacy it might not be long before they do.