Fajardo repays Branislav’s trust

Everybody was surprised when Kim Fajardo cracked into the starting unit of the PSL-F2 Logistics Manila when it opened its campaign in the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship late Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Americans Stephanie Niemer and Lindsay Stalzer were tipped to be starters for being the most prolific attackers on the team.

Same goes for Puerto Rican Lynda Morales and Ukrainian Yevgeniya Nyukhalova, who both have valuable experience competing against the best players in the world in the Olympics and world championship.

Jaja Santiago, of course, was a surefire starter. With her 6-foot-5 frame, Santiago provides an intimidating presence at the net while showing vast improvement at the firing end.

Fajardo’s chance of starting was in limbo.

Rising star Tichaya Boonlert of Thailand was said to be favored to start with Serbian coach Moro Branislav falling in-love with her playmaking, ability to read the defense and quick decision-making.

But in a game that would shape the future of Philippine volleyball, Branislav called her number. Everybody was surprised except for one person – Fajardo.

[quote]I saw it coming.

In fact, that’s what we’re always doing in training. I always start and Tichaya will come off the bench. So I told myself to be ready because coach might use me as starter in this match.[/quote]

And Fajardo delivered. In fact, she opened the match with a drop shot, setting the stage for a massive coup that shook Philippine volleyball to its very foundation.

Fajardo finished with 21 excellent sets while her counterpart, Brazilian national team member Roberta Silva, had only 22 excellent sets despite the firepower of Rexona’s army of attackers led by world-class players like Ana Carolina Da Silva, Anne Bujis, Gabi Guimaraes and Monique Marinho.

In one fleeting moment at the third set, the home side led by as much as seven, 14-7, with Fajardo connecting well with Stalzer and Niemer from the wings. But that lead quickly melted as the Brazilians equalized the match, 15-15.
Mika Reyes connected on a beautiful running attack for a 16-15 advantage.

But it proved to be their final stand as the stronger, more fluid Brazilians went on a scoring spree to seal the victory, 25-15, 25-13, 25-20.

[quote cite=’Moro Branislav’]Any team that trained for only 25 days has no chance of winning over a big-league team like Brazil.

Believe me, every single point was a problem for them. Maybe if we won one set, it will not be a good result for them to take. A team who will lose one set to the Philippines will not finish the tournament.[/quote]

But the final scores do not paint the real picture of the battle. It doesn’t reflect the resilience, hard work and big fighting heart of local volleyball stars. It doesn’t reflect how Fajardo repaid the trust given by Branislav.