Risa Sato, who is one of the most reliable middle blockers in the local scene, was relegated to a mere spectator for National University in the UAAP Season 81 Women’s Volleyball Tournament.
Academic deficiencies had barred the Fil-Japanese stalwart from seeing action at that time. And so, she could only helplessly watch as the then rookie-laden Lady Bulldogs — who were just starting life without Jaja Santiago — tasted one bitter defeat after another.
The setback was all the more devastating since NU fell far short of Final Four contention, much less a shot at the title.
“Last year, sobrang nasaktan ako,” Sato bared. “‘Di ba last season lagi lang ako nood sa kanila? Gusto ko pumasok sa court.”
A year removed from such a painful experience, Sato now hopes to find redemption in Season 82.
“Ito iniisip ko, babawi ako talaga,” the 5-foot-10 middle blocker vowed.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the 25-year-old spiker wants nothing less than the title for the Sampaloc-based squad in her final playing year.
“Lumabas ang best ko,” Sato admitted of her aspirations for the team this upcoming season. “Babawi talaga ako this season para mag-champion.”
And what better way to guide a young pack of Lady Bulldogs towards the mountaintop than as a full-fledged captain. For Sato’s part, though, the mantle of leadership came as a surprise.
“Nu’ng sabi nila team captain daw ako sabi ko, ‘Eh wait lang, paano salita ko?’” she recounted. “‘Yun naisip ko talaga, na sana naintindihan nila ako, ‘yan lagi isip ko.
“Isip ko sa Japan sistema tsaka Philippines sistema, ibang-iba. Gusto ko turo ko sa kanila na Japanese na sistema. Hindi ko alam nu’ng una if turo ko sa kanila Japanese na sistema, follow ba sila sa akin?” she then added.
“Dami ng iniisip ko. Iniisip ko basta okay lang, adjust lang ako and magturo ako sa kanila ng Japanese system.”
Carrying all the experiences and learnings she has gained from the semi-pro circuit with Creamline and under the tutelage of Tai Bundit, Sato has been passing on a positive culture to the youthful Lady Bulldogs.
“Okay naman. Lagi ko sinasabi sa kanila na happy-happy lang paglalaro and follow naman sila.”
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