It has been a few days since PLDT earned its first Shakey’s V-League championship. They dethroned the Army Lady Spikers in five gruelling sets, 25-22, 18-25, 26-24, 28-26, 15-13. With the dust finally settling down, PLDT member, and one of the athletes in the Philippines’ women’s volleyball team that will be participating in the South East Asian (SEA) Games, Gretchel Soltones, shared with Tiebreaker Times the experiences that led to her first V-League championship.
Soltones was a huge asset in PLDT’s victory, contributing 17 points enroute to the win. Her scoring wasn’t the only benefit she provided her teammates. Like Alyssa Valdez, Gretchel is constantly smiling in the court. Even when her team was trailing or getting blown out, she kept a positive disposition, and that she tried her best to uplift her teammates, especially when they were feeling down.
“Iniisip ko nalang yung pinaghirapan namin. Hindi biro yung training namin, minsan thrice a day. Minsan hindi mo pa alam kung ano yung gagawin sa training, masu-surprise ka sa pinapagawa ni coach Tai. Ang iniisip ko nalang yung mga pinaghirapan namin, yung mga pagod moments,” shared Gretchel. “Ine-enjoy ko nalang din bawa’t moment namin sa loob (ng court). Matagal na kaming magkakasama eh. Ilang leagues na, apat, lima? Kilala ko na yung bawa’t isa sa amin. Yung ginagawa ko nalang, pinapasmile ko sila, lalo na si ate Rubie pinapasmile ko, pati si kuya Sue, silang dalawa.”
Gretchel also shared with us her most trying moment during her stint in the V-League. She discovered the terror that Ateneo coach, Tai Bundit, could be in the training court. This came around when she had just returned from a beach volleyball tournament in Thailand, and she had no time to rest since the V-League had started already.
“Yung pinakadown ko na time, yun yung nagrerecover yung katawan ko sa pagod, kasi first time kong na-encounter si coach Tai sa training. Nung pagbalik namin from Thailand nung beach volleyball, sumabak agad ako sa training ni Coach Tai. Sobrang nakakapagod talaga! Alam mo yun na, kailangan mo na ng rest, pero may V-League so hindi makarest. Yan yung pinakanahirapan ako. ”
Despite the hardship she experienced with coach Tai in practice, Gretchel was very appreciative of the Ateneo mentor. And while he may be a terror during training, coach Tai was always supportive of the girls during the games.
“Noong U-23, sobrang gaan niya (coach Tai) sa game. Siya yung naglilift-up sa amin na ‘think, can do, can do’, lalo sa service error ko. Sinasabi niya na ‘sayang, sayang yung serve mo, kailangan i-improve’.”
Before parting, we asked Soltones two things: first was to describe some of her teammates and what they meant to her. Second was to share her biggest learning playing for PLDT this season.
When asked about the first question, she had to think for a moment, trying to figure out how to best describe her teammates. Her face lit up after a while, of course the first person she described was Alyssa, her idol.
“Siyempre si ate Alyssa, yun yung idol ko. Siya yung happy pill ko sa loob. Tapos pag hindi ako ngumingiti, siya yung nag u-uplift sa akin. Tapos si ate Rubie, siya yung medyo kaaway ko sa court kasi gusto niya akong ma-iboost talaga. Tapos si kuya Sue naman parang niya akong baby. Pati si ate Den, baby niya ako. Si Jaja same kami ng level, parang ‘hey ja!’
While her time in PLDT taught her to be brave and able to handle pressure better in the court, Gretchel’s biggest lesson was selflessness.
“Kung paano maging matapang, tsaka paano ihandle yung pressure sa loob ng court. Ang inaalala ko talaga during game, yun yung wag mong isipin yung sarili mo, isipin mo yung team mo. Don’t be selfish.”