UAAP: Vanie Gandler says rookie year was ‘most unforgettable’
MANILA, Philippines—As she enters the new chapter of her volleyball career, Vanie Gandler revealed that her rookie year in the UAAP was her most unforgettable experience because of the criticisms that helped her become who she is today.
Gandler, who is taking her act to the Cignal HD Spikers in the Premier Volleyball League, revealed on Carmela Tunay’s show on Kumu that she had a tough freshman year, amid winning the Season 81 championship with the quartet of Kat Tolentino, Bea De Leon, Maddie Madayag, and Deanna Wong.
“Aside from winning the championship, as a team, it was a great year but then for me, individually, it was really a hard one,” the graduating outside hitter told Tunay. “It was a really bad year for me. If my fans here really watched volleyball, they know that I was the most bashed player that season, as in.”
Gandler, a prized recruit from La Salle-Zobel, was impressive during the preseason as she and the Blue Eagles reached the PVL Open Conference Finals in 2018 and settled for silver after losing to the Alyssa Valdez-led Creamline.
But she received a backlash on social media after being limited to just one point in her UAAP debut when Ateneo got swept by La Salle, 14-25, 17-25, 25-16, 19-25, in front of 17,000 fans at Mall of Asia Arena last February 17, 2019.
“The backlash was overwhelming and I didn’t know and coming into college volleyball, I didn’t expect this pressure from everything. I didn’t expect the mental side of it. I thought, you know, you just have to play but then when I stepped into the court first game, La Salle-Ateneo, the stadium was full and I told myself oh no then I played my worst game ever,” she said. “From there I was super bashed. I get why because I played bad.”
Gandler won her first championship in the same year but it took time for her to shrug off the criticisms she received and couldn’t even watch the clip of her debut game.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which wiped out her supposed sophomore year in 2020, served as a blessing in disguise, giving her time to reflect and time to “stand up.”
“I admit for a long time, I didn’t know how to stand up from that, I was really lost,” Gandler said. “That year, I remember I was crying all the time. I was super lost, until the pandemic I was home so I had time to decide what do I really want for my volleyball career. Do I want to be better? So yeah there I decided like ok it’s time to start working on myself.”
“I decided that I want to move forward and I want to be better that’s the first thing I did okay I‘m gonna watch this game. I’m gonna accept how I played bad and then there, I was able to accept criticism. I was like ok this is gonna help me. My mindset and then I started working not only in the pandemic, not only physically and mentally,” she added.
When the UAAP returned last year, Gandler emerged as one of Ateneo’s main offensive options as she and the Blue Eagles rose from a 0-3 start and led her team to a bronze finish, eliminating Adamson and third-seed UST in the playoff for No.4 and stepladder semifinals, respectively.
In her final season, Gandler, the co-captain of Faith Nisperos, scored a total of 154 points built on 134 spikes, 12 aces, and eight blocks only for Ateneo to miss the Final Four for the first time since 2009 after it finished with a 4-10 record.
Gandler is now moving on to the next chapter of her career and she is ending her collegiate stint with Ateneo without any regrets, being grateful for her experience even her most unforgettable Season 81.
“For me, that year was unforgettable because it helped me become who I am today. It helped build me,” she said.