Many were thrilled to see players such as Alyssa Valdez, Jia Morado, and Aby Maraño participate in the two-day National Team tryouts at the Arellano University School of Law Gymnasium. But what’s more enticing are the level of talent that was manifested by the Under-23 aspirants. While they may look young, there is nothing juvenile about the way they play volleyball.
Three players who impressed the seniors, the coaches, and the spectators alike are part of the De La Salle Zobel team that ended Nazareth School of National University’s hopes of a four-peat in the UAAP Season 81 girl’s volleyball tournament. By watching Season MVP Angel Anne Canino, 2nd Best Outside Hitter Alleiah Malaluan, and Finals MVP Justine Jazareno hold their own against some of the best players in the country, it’s certain that volleyball talent is in an upswing.
For the 15-year-old Canino, the experience of being in the tryouts and playing against the likes of Valdez, Kalei Mau and Mylene Paat was one to remember. “The experience was very overwhelming. Until now I still couldn’t believe that I was able to join the try out and play with the most popular and respected volleyball players in the country. This is one of my greatest dreams and I wasn’t expecting this will come too soon.” The 5’11” Canino, who still has three years left for De La Salle Zobel, was in awe playing with and against Valdez. “Alyssa Valdez is one of my greatest idols. Syempre po sobrang na star struck ako nung nakita ko po sya.”
As for Malaluan, a 16-year old transferee from De La Salle Lipa, the experience being in the tryouts is remarkable. “The opportunity of trying out for the national team is truly remarkable. Since I’m still in junior high, I consider this as a learning experience.” Like Canino, Malaluan also can’t believe the opportunity she gained during the scrimmages. “I’m definitely starstrucked! I used to watch them on TV. Sharing the same court with them motivates me to train harder. Playing with your idols is definitely a check on my bucket list.”
For Jazareno, the experience was different. Playing utility spiker under Coach Tina Salak, she tried out as a libero for the U23 pool. Despite the adjustments she had to make, the 18-year-old put up an impressive display. “Mahirap po mag adjust pero kinakaya naman po kasi ever since naman po, talagang naniniwala sila coach sa depensa kasi yun po ang pinagtutuunan, kasi yung palo lahat naman po meron niyan.” The graduating skipper also learned a lot playing with and against the likes of Buding Duremdes and Kath Arado. “Opo, kasi bihasa na po sila sa college at matataas na league. Madami na din pong humahanga sa husay nila sa paglalaro.”
When asked what they can bring to the table for the Under-23 line-up, the trio stated different things. “Trying out for the national team is already a dream come true for me. If i will be chosen, i will definitely give my 100% in every training to improve my skills para mas makatulong po ako sa national team kapag tinawag na po ako to suit up for a tournament,” Canino excitedly answered.
“If given the chance to be part of the U-23 pool, everything I learned from my coaches will help me deliver the expected offense and defense skills expected for each player,” Malaluan stated. “Kung posible man po ako na mapasama sa U-23, gagawin ko po ang best ko para sa team at sa bansa, gamit ang kakayahan ko na bilang isang manlalaro,” Jazareno closed out.
The future of Philippine volleyball is indeed bright as Canino, Malaluan, and Nazareno continue to hone their skills. The tryouts alone were a huge boost to their confidence coming into their next battles in the volleyball court. As young as they are, they are more than ready when their time to join the Under-23 or even the senior’s squad comes.