MANILA — It took Kat Tolentino three years before she could finally debut in the UAAP since starting her college education at the Loyola campus back in 2014.
As she finally got a taste of how a rivalry game feels like at the Mall of Asia Arena on Saturday, the Ateneo junior was almost out of words.
“I’m speechless, I think. It was more than what I expected, and I couldn’t be more happier with the results,” she said.
Tolentino provided the firepower for the Lady Eagles alongside veteran Michelle Morente to edge the De La Salle Lady Spikers in four gruelling sets. She caught the defending champions by surprise with her tally of 18 points in 16 attacks and two blocks.
But all the hype and pressure aside, the towering spiker turned to her family for inspiration. With her brother and Ateneo Blue Eagles co-captain Vince Tolentino, along with their parents, among those thousands in attendance during the game, she revealed that their presence gave an added boost to her performance. “I’m so thankful that they could watch. They really are a motivating factor.”
“For sure, this one is also for them because they helped me so much in my volleyball career. I’m just so thankful that they were able to watch this game,” she shared. “I think that was a huge factor because I know they were watching in the stands.”
The Lady Eagles concluded the first round of eliminations of UAAP Season 79 on top of the standings with a 6-1 win-loss record, but their victory against their arch rivals was not a walk in the park.
In the first and second sets of the match, Ateneo had to mount fearless comebacks just to snatch it away from La Salle. “For me, I knew it was a little bit nerve-wracking, but we knew we had to win those first two sets. That was crucial to get the momentum,” she admitted.
But for the Lady Eagles, their week long preparation for the crucial match actually paid off.
“We studied the La Salle players,” Tolentino said. “We just really had to prepare, and we really worked hard this week so as not get intimidated and to just stay as a team.”
In the end, Tolentino couldn’t be more proud of her teammates.
“I think that’s what I love with the team — there’s never a point when you think that the game is over. We really just fought the whole way,” she ended.