The best of her era
THERE is a claim that Alyssa Valdez refuses to accept: In a sport with rising popularity, the Ateneo star is a once-in-a-generation talent.
Her mix of power, athleticism and instinct, plus the charisma that inspires fans put her high up in the list of the best ever to have the game of volleyball in the country.
But Valdez, 23, dismisses the label.
“If you really think about it, I was just lucky,” Valdez said, during a break of her guesting at Inquirer’s newest sports talk show, SportsIQ. “I came into the sport along with several great players. And because of that, if I wanted to excel, I had to push myself harder.”
The way Valdez sees it, if she wanted to match Ara Galang’s power or get past the size advantage of the Santiago siblings, she needed to find ways to get better, to chase a perfection only the greats of sports know exists.
Her feats certainly prop the claim to greatness: four-time UAAP best scorer, three-time best server, three-time season MVP, one-time Finals MVP and two-time champion.
But to understand her greatness is to watch her play, to watch her dominate in a way that makes her seem peerless in one of the most talent-rich eras of the sport. To understand her greatness is also to watch how she touches the lives of people just by a chance encounter.
“When I suddenly found myself in front of her, I was speechless; she may not have noticed me, but that became my favorite moment in life,” said fan Jecha Abucejo, 19, in Filipino. “She inspires me to overcome my own troubles. If she can smile despite all her problems, so can I.”
Abucejo, who won a promo to sit with Valdez during the show, which airs Thursdays at 8 p.m., was referring to the bashing the “Phenom” inexplicably gets online.
To understand Valdez’ greatness is to know how she deals with it.
“I think I learned from it,” she said. “On to the next dreams and goals. Let’s keep moving forward and let’s keep positive and happy.”
Abucejo said getting the chance to meet Valdez is something she’ll never forget. To understand Valdez’s greatness is to realize that it was the Psychology graduate who nearly teared up at hearing a fan’s profuse praise of her.
“If a fan approaches me, it changes me as a person, it makes me happy,” she said.
Valdez is skipping the current Shakey’s V-League to allow Ateneo’s young core to gain experience for the coming UAAP wars. But she’s looking to play abroad to further test herself.
In the meantime, she holds the AV Skills Camp in the hopes of nurturing the next Alyssa Valdez. It may take a generation to unearth that talent.
As much as Alyssa Valdez refuses to claim greatness, embraces her wholly.
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