While all eyes are fixed on Lindsay Stalzer, another import made a grand return to pick up where she left off and lead her team to the title of the Chooks To Go-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix.
Darlene Ramdin of Trinidad and Tobago is seeing action in the league’s premier club league anew, hoping to finally lead the hungry Generika-Ayala to the title.
And in her first game this season, Ramdin proved why she deserves another tour of duty.
Brushing off fatigue and jetlag following a grueling campaign in the FIVB World Championship qualifying tournament, Ramdin delivered nine kills while playing second fiddle to Katarina Pilepic of Croatia in the Lifesavers’ three-set loss to Petron last Saturday.
She looked fit and deadly, but her weary body and limited minutes doomed her chances to go full blast as Petron imports Stalzer and Hillary Hurley dominated the Lifesavers from start to finish.
“First of all, I’m playing a different position (this year). But I played a lot of volleyball this summer so I’m a lot more in shape.”
“And because I already played in the Philippines last year, I learned a lot about the playing culture so I already know what to expect and how to adjust this year.”
To the rescue
Ramdin wasn’t the original choice by the Lifesavers.
Former Oregon star Katelyn Driscoll was already in the country for two weeks and was tipped to provide the firepower the Lifesavers badly need to crack into the semifinals of this season-ending conference.
But fate had other plans.
An emergency back home promoted Driscoll to pack her bags and bid goodbye to the team that had been very close to her. The urgency of the situation promoted team manager Allyn Sta. Maria to dial the number of a very familiar name to bail them out of trouble.
She called on Ramdin.
“Actually, she‘s competing for the (Trinidad and Tobago) national team at that time and won’t be available until Oct. 17. Since we already know D (Ramdin), I was confident that she would hit the ground running as soon as she arrives here before our opening game against Petron on Oct. 21.”
Ramdin and her countrymen accomplished their goal of steering their country to the FIVB World Championship in Japan next year with a runner-up finish.
She was also named 2nd Best Outside Spiker with Samantha Bricio of Mexico bagging the Most Valuable Player crown in the Group C of the NORCECA FIVB World Championship Qualifying Tournament in the Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago.
But still, the call of duty in the Philippines was too hard to resist.
“And because I know coach Vince (Generika-Ayala head coach Francis Vicente) and already familiar with the team and Philippine volleyball, I know I’ll be able to adjust better for this year’s Grand Prix.”
Ramdin knows that her first stint with the Lifesavers wasn’t really impressive.
With Polina Liutikova of Ukraine as her partner, Generika-Ayala failed to advance to the semifinals as Petron and Foton figured in a thrilling best-of-three finals showdown.
But now that she’s finally back, Ramdin said she’s ready to settle her unfinished business and lead the Lifesavers to a glorious finish.
“I think if we remain focused and keep in mind what our goals are and most of all have fun and play with heart – that’s how we will be able to bounce back from last year.”
“They’re very hungry. I’m very hungry too even from last year.”
She added that she would use the momentum she gained from a successful FIVB stint to an impressive performance for the Lifesavers.
“I hope to bring the same energy I used to have when I played with our national team.”
“And because I have to go from one tournament to another, I really didn’t have a break, so I think bringing the energy and maintaining the energy with the drive to win, I hope I can help my team reach its goal.”
“I still have high hopes, always.”
She reiterated this could be her second straight tournament, but her love for the Lifesavers prompted her to suit up anew.
And for her, love is sweeter the second time around.