It’s common in Philippine sports media to call the captain of a college team the king or queen. The captain of the San Beda University is the King Lion, the King Eagle for Ateneo, and so on.
For Jose Rizal University’s Shola Alvarez, “Queen Bomber” is not just an arbitrary nickname. It’s a mantle of the hefty responsibility she shouldered throughout her five-year stay at the Mandaluyong-based university. She has always been a proud Bomber, even when barely anyone knew that JRU had a volleyball program.
Friday evening, Alvarez finally relinquished her crown, playing her final indoor match; a rather uneventful straight-sets loss to the Arellano University in which she was held to a season-low seven points.
But this was in the Final Four, a stage JRU has never reached. By leading JRU to this semifinals, Alvarez truly etched her name in NCAA history.
When Alvarez stepped foot in the NCAA, JRU was barely relevant. Every season, Alvarez and the Lady Bombers made incremental improvements, but were never close to the Final Four.
In Season 93, her fifth and final playing year, Alvarez had a truly inspired campaign. Far and away, the Queen Bomber was the best player in the NCAA, norming 21.3 points per game and knocking off perennial contenders one at a time. At this point, it’s inevitable that Alavarez wins the Most Valuable Player award.
With their Cinderalla run to the program’s first Final Four appearance, the Lady Bombers were understandably giddy in their match-up against the Arellano University. In the end, the Lady Chiefs were too balanced and too experienced to even give the Lady Bombers a sniff of the lead.
“Parang masyado po kaming na-excite. Nanggigil din kaming lahat kasi namin sa sarili namin na kaya naming lumaban tapos nanggigigil po kami, gusto po naming pumuntos agad,” the 20-year-old Rizalian admitted.
“Pero dahil po doon sa mindset namin, yun po ang naging dahilan kung bakit error po kami ng error, kaya kami natatalo.”
In the end, she had taken the little-known JRU to unprecedented heights. That, in itself, is equivalent to winning a championship in difficulty.
“Parang tinaga ko rin po sa bato [na makapasok kami sa Final Four] eh, inano ko sa sarili ko na hindi ako pwedeng matapos sa JRU na parang iiwan ko lang sila nang basta-basta,” she shared.
“Last year pa lang, nung fourth year ko, hindi kami nakapasok nun tapos seventh ata kami nun, ang baba pa namin, sinabi ko na ibabawi ko ang team next year and ‘yun ito po ang nangyari.”
JRU head coach Mia Tioseco feels incredibly blessed to have experienced this with Alvarez, a player whom she had right from her first season as head coach.
“Nung bago pa lang ako… Basically we grew up together, me and the team. When I started with sila Shola talagang from the very basic talaga. Unti-unti we were able to grow,” Tioseco reflected.
But Season 93 isn’t done for the Queen Bomber. She still has one last hoorah when she swim-suits up in the beach volleyball tournament, where she will pair up with heir apparent Dolly Versoza.
“Hindi rin po ako masyado naging emotional, hindi pa po yun kasi naisip ko may beach volley pa eh. Sabi ko kayang-kaya naming bumawi roon,” she vowed.
“Ngayon ako po sa sarili ko target kong mag-Finals ng beach volley.”