MANILA, Philippines – It’s difficult to believe, given how quickly it felt like time flew by, but here we are. There are, at the most, 5 more games remaining in the well-admired career of La Salle captain and setter Kim Fajardo. The conclusion is set to arrive for the career of a Calatagan, Batangas prodigy whose resume includes a trio of UAAP senior titles and a pair of Best Setter recognitions.
The UAAP volleyball season has passed by like a blur. La Salle entered Season 79 on a high - the vindicated defending champion as the favorite to repeat, bannered by the returning fifth-year veteran whose game on the court is overshadowed only by her professionalism off it. But here we are in the present, with questions surrounding the team aiming for a 10th title in the Ramil De Jesus era, a finals rematch against its better-than-expected rival seemingly in the horizon.
For Fajardo, it’s tough to imagine a season where her presence is more vital for another trophy to be added to DLSU’s collection. Her leadership is a must as the Lady Spikers (#2) enter the Final Four that commences Saturday, April 22, against a dangerous and underrated foe in UST (#3).
La Salle needs 3 wins to earn another title, but has to get there without the co-stars Fajardo grew up with in the nest of De Jesus - Mika Reyes and Ara Galang.
It’s not hard to imagine how even a battle-tested veteran like the 23-year-old “Kimmy” could feel the pressure starting to build up, especially with the end drawing closer and closer.
But on the eve of her curtain call, how exactly does she feel?
“Doble-saya (Double the fun),” she said in a conversation with Rappler on Friday.
“Kasi, nung nag iisip ako kung maglalaro pa ako sa final year ko, hindi ko talaga alam kung ano mapupuntahan nito. Siguro na-pressure din ako nuon, kasi yun nga, defending champion kami at ako lang yung natirang senior.
(Because, when I was considering returning for my final year, I really had no idea how far I could get. I guess I was also pressured back then, because, of course, we were the defending champions and I was the lone remaining senior.)
“Pero habang tumatagal, hindi ko na-feel na mag-isa akong lumalaban.”
(But as time went by, I started to feel that I wasn’t alone.)
u0022 File photo by Martin San Diego
Fajardo is surrounded by new sisters-in-arms, including those who fit the prototype standouts under De Jesus’ system. Kim Dy, last year’s Finals MVP, and Majoy Baron are long, athletic, talented, and confident individuals who have become stars in collegiate volleyball. Dawn Macandili is ready to give up her body at any moment for floor defense, while La Salle has once again developed young blood that will one day continue the school’s winning tradition.
But there are big challenges on the road remaining. A gritty UST squad powered by skipper Cherry Rondina and the skilled EJ Laure stand in the way of a ninth consecutive finals appearance for the Lady Spikers. Go one step further, and in the championship series most likely awaits another meeting with the top-seeded Lady Eagles, who swept their season series against La Salle in convincing fashion.
“Ngayon lang sila ulit nakapasok sa Final Four, so lalaban talaga sila hanggang dulo,” Fajardo said about UST.
(It’s only now that they returned to the Final Four, so they will fight until the end.)
And how about Ateneo, the team Fajardo has seen in the finals every year she’s been in the UAAP? The team who ousted the defending champions in 4 sets each time they battled in Season 79?
“Siguro more on mental toughness na lang ‘to. [‘Yun] yung mindset na lang siguro pag sila kalaban pero dadating naman kami dun. For now, UST muna.”
(I guess it will be more on mental toughness. That will be the mindset when we face them. For now, it’s UST.)
What goes through Fajardo’s mind in this year’s Final Four as compared to those of the past? She’s the soul of this La Salle team, the one it turns to in time of need and struggle - and best believe there will be a handful of those moments in the coming weeks.
“Emotional?" She repeats the key word of the question thrown her way regarding how she feels.
“Hindi naman,” she laughs after.
“Hindi pa naman tapos kasi at ngayon, hindi ko pa iniisip na malapit na ako matapos. In fact, pag sumasagi sa utak ko ‘yun, nagiging motivation saakin ‘yun to go all out in every game.
(The season isn’t over yet, so I’m not yet thinking that it’s about to end. In fact, when that thought enters my mind, it becomes motivation for me to go all out every game.)
“Pero sure ako, pag alis ko dito, ma-mimiss ko silang lahat.”
(But I’m sure that when I leave, I’ll miss everyone.)
And when that times comes - what does she believe will be the legacy she leaves behind?
“Hindi ko alam (I don’t know),” she laughs again. Depends on how the people see me in and out of the court.”
The answer to that question should already be certain, regardless of her team’s fate this season. – Rappler.com