It only took rookie Jolina Dela Cruz one game to turn heads in the UAAP Season 81 Women’s Volleyball tournament and send La Salle fans in a frenzy, believing they have found another gem who will help keep the winning tradition of the three-time defending champions.
With no less than the Ateneo Lady Eagles as her first opponent in the UAAP stage, Dela Cruz sparkled with her forceful kills to tally 11 points in their victory last weekend.
Though one game is not enough to tell how the rest of the competition will turn out for the Bulacan native, she already earned good reviews from spectators who, not surprisingly, drew parallels between her and La Salle legend Ara Galang.
While she was also compared to other former Lady Spikers like Paneng Mercado, Dela Cruz’ brand of play, according to fans, resemble Galang’s the most.
To this, La Salle head coach Ramil De Jesus, politely disagrees.
“Iba ‘yung Ara Galang. Ibang talent ‘yun. Iba din ang talent nito. Di mo pwedeng i-compare ‘yung dalawa,” the multi-titled De La Salle mentor told Volleyverse.
“Bata pa ‘to eh. Madami pa ‘tong dapat ayusin sa sarili niya. Sa talent at talent lang, meron ‘yung bata. Kaya lang kailangan ilabas pa,” added De Jesus.
After three game days, the former Academia de San Lorenzo Dema-Ala standout is ranked eighth in attacking with 32% success rate.
Relieving the rookie from the burden of expectations, De Jesus said that at this point, he is just thankful that the opposite hitter remained firm in playing for La Salle in college despite offers from other teams.
“Thankful kami na na-recruit namin siya, oo naman. ‘Yung bata talaga ever since gusto sa La Salle,” shared the mentor.
And for those wondering if the jersey number eight she is wearing is an homage to the UAAP Season 75 Most Valuable Player, Dela Cruz said that though she is a huge fan of Galang, it was just a coincidence.
“High school pa po ako ito na ang jersey number ko. Nag sakto lang,” said Dela Cruz.