Instead of joy and relief, pain was written all over the tear-streaked face of Mary Ann Mendrez after the final buzzer of UE’s four-set victory over the Adamson Lady Falcons in the first round of the UAAP Season 81 Women’s Volleyball tournament.
Not known to many, it was only just Monday when she rejoined the ball training of the Lady Warriors since the competition started due to what was initially diagnosed as a frozen right shoulder.
This limited Mendrez to an average of eight points per game in their first two outings, both of which resulted to losses.
Still far from her fighting form Wednesday, Mendrez already declined to start against the San Marcelino crew in fear of causing more harm than good.
“Nag-usap kami ni coach na parang kaya ko daw ba. Sabi ko kahit ‘yung iba na lang muna sa simula kasi baka ‘yung team ang mag-suffer dahil hindi ko kaya. Pag super kailangan na, sige,” shared the outside hitter.
When her teammates struggled in the opening frame, however, Mendrez knew she will have to brave through the agony and eventually see action.
“Nung first set nakita ko parang tinatawag nila ako kahit hindi nila sinasabi. Parang ramdam ko na kailangan ako ng team. Kahit hindi ako 100% alam kong kailangan nila ako eh. Kahit 60% lang ako, ilalaban ko pa din,” she said, with her eyes welling up anew.
And help she did.
Though her signature sharp down the line kills were missing, the San Pedro, Laguna native found ways to score—mostly through off-the-block kills—to complement the combined 48-point output of Judith Abil, Zilfa Olarve, and Seth Rodriguez.
In the tightly-contested fourth set, Mendrez, who finished with 14 points, shared she was practically begging her teammates to end the match as soon as possible as she was unsure if she still has enough will to survive a fifth set.
“Sabi ko sa kanila: ‘Please, tapusin na natin ‘to. Four sets lang kasi pare-parehas tayong mahihirapan sa fifth set.’ Super sakit na kasi talaga,” she said.
But instead of seeing the situation as her helping her teammates, Mendrez shunned all the praises, saying it was actually the other way around.
On the heroics of her teammates, including the 39 excellent digs and 28 excellent receptions of Kath Arado, the spiker says: “Kaya lang naging ganun ‘yung resulta kasi tinulungan din nila ako. Napunan ‘yung 40% na kulang ko. Alam ko kahit na super sakit na, nandun ‘yung tiwala nila sa akin.”
Mendrez is expected to spend Thursday undergoing therapy and getting another check-up with a doctor to find out what’s preventing her from playing her A-game.