FOR MANY, it felt like the end of an era.
On the last day of their five epic seasons, La Salle’s Ara Galang and Mika Reyes happily hoisted the championship trophy amid a rain of confetti, while Ateneo’s Alyssa Vadez walked around the sidelines, waving to the fans in a tearful farewell.
For many, it felt like UAAP women’s volleyball won’t be the same again with the exit of these popular stars who were locked in an intense rivalry, but helped turn the sport into a crowd-drawing, passionate spectacle.
“This is what we’re leaving the team (a championship),” said Galang, the gritty open hitter who highlighted her collegiate career with a third title, a season Most Valuable Player and top rookie honors.
“This is our mark.”
“It feels good that when we were rookies, the seniors left us with a championship,” said the 5-foot-11 Reyes, after the Lady Spikers dethroned the Lady Eagles in the fifth straight Finals showdown between the two fierce foes last Saturday.
“And now that we’re the seniors, we made sure that we do the same thing for the younger players.”
Valdez—arguably the best female athlete Ateneo has ever produced—failed to get the storybook ending she had hoped after the Lady Spikers foiled their bid for a third straight crown.
Nothing more to prove
But there’s really nothing more to prove for the much-loved open spiker from San Juan, Batangas, with a decorated career that includes three straight season MVPs and two championships.
“What I learned is that it’s not always about winning,” Valdez said in a speech to the school community on the same night the Lady Eagles settled for a runner-up finish for the third time in five seasons.
“It’s just about giving your all, going all out and giving your heart for the people who support you. And by that, you have won.”
After their storied varsity stints, the standout trio, along with La Salle’s Kim Fajardo and Cyd Demecillo and Ateneo setter Jia Morado, are expected to bring their talents to the local commercial leagues. For Valdez, playing for foreign clubs also remains an option.
But for now, Galang and Reyes just want to celebrate after ending two seasons of heartbreak—the first when departing school star and spiritual leader Aby Maraño and the Lady Spikers of 2014 were foiled by Valdez and the Lady Eagles in the championship match.
“All happiness, that’s just what we’re feeling right now,” said Galang.
Although Valdez couldn’t say the same, she bravely put on a smile.
“This challenge is just preparing me for real life,” said Valdez. “We’re sad. We’re giving ourselves time to accept all the things. But life goes on.”