With Alyssa Valdez already playing her last few games in the UAAP, the great question is now begging for an answer: Who will be the heir apparent of the charming Ateneo superstar?
UST coach Kungfu Reyes bravely responded to the inquiry, saying that his sophomore Cherry Rondina is armed with all the tools to succeed Valdez as the queen of UAAP volleyball.
A prized recruit from Cebu, the 19-year old Rondina is slowly blossoming into a solid force in the open position, giving other stars like Valdez, Ara Galang of La Salle and Jessica Galanza of Adamson a run for their money.
In fact, in the official ranking released by the UAAP after the first round, Rondina edged Valdez in the scoring department as she tallied 104 points from kills, 10 from blocks and 15 aces for an accumulated total of 129 points.
Valdez, on the other hand, notched 97 points from kills, three from blocks and 13 aces for a total of 113 points to land in the fourth spot.
[quote cite=’Kungfu Reyes, UST coach’]”Cherry and Alyssa are very close in terms of scoring, floor defense and leadership. But, of course, Alyssa is still there. Her height and length still remain as her most potent weapons — not to mention her charm and winning smile both inside and outside the court.”[/quote]
UST, however, is still fighting for a Final Four spot with 5-7 win-loss card while Ateneo is on top with 9-2 entering the crucial stretch of the elimination round.
Reyes said Rondina draws perfect comparison to a younger, hungrier version of Valdez.
When Reyes was coaching Valdez in the high school ranks at UST, in fact, she was always playing with boundless energy and out-of-this world athleticism, prompting other volleyball programs, including Ateneo, to give her a closer look.
After transferring to the Lady Eagles, Valdez’ stock soared to meteoric rise as she immediately took the helm from the squad that ended Ateneo’s 36-year title drought led by Gretchen Ho, Fille Cayetano and Dzi Gervacio.
[quote cite=’Kungfu Reyes, UST coach’]”Of course, there’s no point of comparison now because Alyssa is already on her fifth year while Cherry is still on her second year. But Cherry always reminds me of Alyssa in her younger years. With the way she’s playing now, she’s like a little version of Alyssa.”[/quote]
Rondina is expected to join Foton in the PSL Challenge Cup beach volleyball tournament next month.
Discussion about her inclusion in the Toplander’s roster in the PSL All-Filipino Conference in June is also underway, possibly putting her on the same team with other former UST stars like Maika Ortiz, Rhea Dimaculangan and Angeli Tabaquero.
Valdez also impressed
Even Valdez also expressed her admiration to the 5-foot-6 Rondina.
[quote]”She’s a fighter. Whenever she’s inside the court, she doesn’t think of anything but to help her team.”[/quote]
[quote cite=’Alyssa Valdez, Ateneo’]”She will definitely go a very long way. Even if she doesn’t have the height like most players do, her skills and fighting spirit are her biggest advantage. She helps her team not only on offense, because even if she’s quite small, she’s good at blocking, defense and reception.”[/quote]
Valdez added that her high school coach, Reyes, must be so lucky to land a player like Rondina.
[quote cite=’Alyssa Valdez, Ateneo’]”Most of all, she’s very kind, humble and hard-working. She has everything a coach is looking for in a volleyball player.”[/quote]
But still, only a UAAP crown can turn Rondina into a certified member of volleyball royalty.