Veterans’ special mission

Sta. Lucia launched a massive recruiting coup when it tapped Rubie de Leon and Michelle Laborte to play a crucial role in its campaign in the Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix that erupts on Feb. 17.

De Leon and Laborte may be the league’s elder stateswomen, but they definitely still have a lot of gas left on their tanks.

De Leon, a savvy setter from University of Santo Tomas, may have seen limited minutes, but she provides the veteran leadership for Foton in the Grand Prix last year.

Same goes for Laborte, the former University of St. La Salle-Bacolod star who manned the middle for Cignal before being assigned as assistant coach when George Pascua took over and led the HD Spikers to an Invitational Conference crown last year.

Pascua said with de Leon and Laborte on board, the Lady Realtors transformed from a young team searching for identity into one of the league’s most seasoned squads.

“We got not just one – but two – of the league’s premier veterans.”

“We all know that we are such a young team. At least with team players like Micmic (Laborte) and Rubie around, we would quickly develop the chemistry and cohesiveness we want to gain before the Grand Prix starts in February.”

But there’s a special reason why de Leon and Laborte were brought in.

And it’s something Pascua wants to see when they shift their buildup to a higher gear next week.

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The Lady Realtors are arguably the league’s youngest team.

Although they entered the league at the same time with Cocolife, there is no doubt that the Asset Managers were already way ahead of them after cracking into the semifinals in the Grand Prix last year.

For their part, the Lady Realtors finished 6th in the Invitationals, in the All-Filipino Conference and in the Grand Prix as they shuffled from one coach to another – from Sammy Acaylar to Michael Carino and Jerry Yee.

But now that Pascua — the architect of Petron’s 13-0 run in the All-Filipino Conference three years ago — is now at the helm, he wants to infuse the formula that made him a winner.

“We want to see Micmic and Rubie mentoring our young players.”

“We have a promising young setter in Rebecca (Rivera) while MJ (Philips) might see a lot of minutes at the middle with the presence of our imports. So we want Rubie and Micmic to take these young players under their wings.”

Aside from the Filipino-Canadian Rivera and Filipino-American Philips, young stars like Jonah Sabete and Pam Lastimosa will also greatly benefit from the well of experience of de Leon and Laborte.

Pascua hinted that some of their former players would be joining them aside from Djanel Cheng and Rica Jane Enclona who reportedly joined their high school coach Yee in the new team in the Premier Volleyball League (PVL).

“We have a very good team, but we’re crumbling when the game is on the line.”

“I hope with Micmic and Rubie around, our performance during crucial stretches will be more stable. I’m looking forward to a very successful season.”

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