During the first two sets of the University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses’ final elimination round game against the National University Lady Bulldogs, coach Kungfu Reyes tried to get something — anything — from his team. They struggled to string together points while trying to contain Jaja Santiago.
While shuffling his pieces, Reyes was able to find his energizers late in the first set in sophomores Christine Francisco, a middle blocker, and Carla Sandoval, an opposite hitter.
“Medyo down yung [Chlodia] Cortez kasi hindi talaga nakaka-ensayo dahil sa thesis, same with Rasmo, pero [buti na lang] nandun yung Christine Francisco, nandun si Carla Sandoval,” Reyes shared.
The energy of the two reignited the Tigresses. Seeing this, Reyes allowed the 18-year-old Francisco to play the rest of the contest — an unexpected opportunity, according to her.
“Lagi lang ready [pero] hindi ko lang in-expect na I would play a whole game,” the 5-foot-9 blocker said. “Siguro, bunot-bunot, relieve sa mga tao sa loob pag nawawala sila sa game.
“Pero di ko in-expect na I would play a five-setter against NU.”
According to the UST lifer, it was Reyes’ “no tomorrow”-mentality that gave her confidence even in the most pressure-packed of moments.
“Sabi nila coach, ‘play every game like it’s the last game,'” shared Francisco, who scored 11 markers.
“Aggressive lang talaga kasi every point matters, so iniisip ko na lang kailangan kong mapatay every set.”
And her outstanding performance that helped tow the Golden Tigresses to the Final Four amazed even Reyes himself, who added that she deserves this moment.
“Would you imagine hindi namin masyadong nagamit nung bandang elimination, doon pa sa dulong, sa pinaka-importanteng laro.
“Si Francisco kasi sobrang ganda ng ine-ensayo, naghihintay lang ng tamang pagkakataon. So yun, nagkataon na ito na yung pinaka-magandang moment para sa kanya,” Reyes remarked.
“She deserves it!”