‘Here to win’: Young Sta. Rosa eager to do more than just gain experience in Spikers’ Turf
MANILA, Philippines — Santa Rosa City, composed of high schoolers from Laguna, joined the 2022 Spikers’ Turf Open Conference not just to learn and gain experience but to win games against strong college and club teams, composed of the current men’s volleyball stars.
After dropping the second set to Ateneo-Fudgee Barr on Tuesday at Paco Arena, the Lions head coach Edu Lirio told his young wards during the set break: “We’re here to win.”
Those words fueled the high schoolers with star Jade Disquitado leading the way with 11 points and seven digs and Gabby Hernandez nailing the game-winning drop ball to close out the fourth set with their first win of the tournament, beating the Blue Eagles, 25-20, 17-25, 25-17, 25-23.
“As you can see in the third set, it turned out as a wake-up call for them. Because sometimes these young players still need that kind of reminder for them to play well. They responded well, even my bench players contributed, and they enjoyed the game,” Lirio said in Filipino.
“Winning our first game felt great. Playing here at this level is hard but it felt like we escaped from a chain. I hope we could win more games,” he added.
Hernandez, who scored nine points, said facing the men’s volleyball stars is a huge honor but he refused to get starstruck, keeping his focus to get more wins for Sta. Rosa, which will carry the flag in the Asean School Games.
“We will gain experience from this league. But we didn’t come here just to gain experience. We’re here to win games,” he said in Filipino, also giving his team doubters a shout-out during the postgame interview.
The Lions, who also drew impressive performances from Gabby’s brother, Emman, and Dave Lardizabal, improved to 1-2 while keeping the Blue Eagles winless in three games.
Lirio admitted that it’s hard for high school players to play in the club league but their family-like chemistry and training helped them in matching the level of the more experienced volleyball players as they put up a gallant stand against joint leaders Cignal and VNS-One Alicia last week before losing their first two games.
“It’s really hard to go up against the top teams of this league. We’re just banking on our training for the past month and we play as a family. That’s what has been helping us in this tournament, I always tell them that we are not just a team, we play as a family,” he said.
Sta. Rosa is facing the unbeaten Sta. Elena Nationals, composed of National University and coached by national team coach Dante Alinsunurin on Saturday. Lirio looks forward to going up against his former high school players Joshua Retamar and Nico Almendras, who are now leading the Bulldogs and representing the country.
“I’m very proud of those kids. Joshua Retamar was my player from Grade 7 to Grade 12 before he went to college. We were together in several tournaments like Palarong Pambansa and Asean School Games, even Nico. I’m super proud of both of them representing the Philippines but I’m waiting for both of them to graduate that would be my biggest trophy,” Sta. Rosa coach said.
“Good luck to NU, especially to my two former players. But on Saturday, my players will not back down against them.”