BACARRA, ILOCOS NORTE — Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teams were forced to train in a bubble set up ahead of the Premier Volleyball Open Conference.
With exhibition matches not an option, Chery Tiggo assistant coach Tina Salak decided to keep herself available just in case the team needed an extra body during training.
So her return to volleyball was definitely ‘accidental’.
Still, the 44-year-old veteran setter out of the Philippine Army is very much thankful for the opportunity to lace up in the country’s first-ever volleyball professional league.
“‘Yung opportunity kasi ginagrab ko lang. So nandito na sa harap ko, why not grab ko na? Hindi lahat ng tao nakaka-experience nito,” said Salak after Chery Tiggo’s sweep of Perlas.
“Actually, aksidente lang talaga na for some reason ‘yung pagpapakondisyon ko is for the sake of the team, for just scrimmage kasi bubble. Ngayon, hindi tayo pwede mag-invite ng other friends or other players to make a scrimmage,” the native of Cavite continued.
“For me, ‘yun ‘yung naging motivation ko para at least matulungan ‘yung team for setting, working out, takbo. But not necessary na this is a plan para bumalik. But indeed masaya ako sobrang happy kasi nabigyan ako ng opportunity.”
On Monday afternoon, Salak made her very first start for Chery Tiggo against a motivated Perlas Spikers.
She finished with 14 excellent sets and four points to lead the Crossovers’ bounce-back win, 25-10, 27-25, 25-23, against the Perlas Spikers — four days after their shocking loss to BaliPure.
Chery Tiggo moved up to a 3-1 standing for the third spot.
“It’s a process. Medyo mahirap. It’s been 10 days pa lang ata na we’ve been here, pero ‘yung plan was to focus on the girls.
“But definitely may hinihingi ‘yung team for some reason, so kailangan namin na mag-step up. Hindi rin biro ‘yung ibang teams, definitely competitive lahat. So unti-unti’ one game at a time. Hopefully, makasabay hanggang dulo,” said Salak, who is also the head coach of De La Salle Zobel’s girls’ volleyball team.
Besides helping the coaching staff led by head coach Aaron Velez, the 44-year-old Salak also lends her hand to Chery Tiggo star and team captain Jaja Santiago on leading the squad.
“Since additional ako sa team, medyo mahirap kasi nagwe-weigh sila between player’s side ba ko or coach’s side ba ko. For me, mahirap din ‘yung nasa bench lang ako magco-coach ako, and eventually tatawagin ako. So kailangan natin magmulti task. Kailangan ko rin i-embrace para sa mga bata,” shared Salak.
“Leading the team sa ngayon mahirap din kasi meron talagang naka-set na game plan for each game. Ang leader talaga natin is Jaja, so not necessary na ako ‘yung pinaka-oldest, pwede kong i-maneuver ‘yung leadership ni Jaja. But I can help inside and outside the court. Inaano ko si Ja, minomotivate ko siya how to handle the team para hindi rin naman nasa kanya lahat ng burden.”
Despite the huge responsibility, Salak bared that she’ll continue to fulfill her duty both as a coach and a player to help Chery Tiggo reach its ultimate goal — the PVL championship.