Justine Jazareno leaves La Salle, joins Akari Chargers in PVL
MANILA, Philippines — Justine Jazareno became the latest La Salle Lady Spiker to turn pro as she joined the Akari Chargers ahead of the 2023 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) All-Filipino Conference in October.
Akari on Thursday welcomed the UAAP champion libero, who decided to forgo her remaining playing years in the collegiate ranks.
Despite having at least two more years of eligibility in the UAAP, the 23-year-old Jazareno followed the footsteps of fellow Lady Spiker Fifi Sharma, who made the leap to Akari last July months after winning the UAAP Season 85 championship.
“It was really hard for me to decide knowing the fact that the La Sallian community has been my family. Since I was a kid, [I studied in] La Salle all the way to college,” said Jazareno in Filipino. “Actually, it took me months to figure out what I need for myself and to help my family, plus it was an eye opener that this might be the opportunity to go out of my comfort zone. I can say that I really took time to think about it and weigh in my priorities to help me come up with this decision.”
Jazareno, who didn’t play for the Lady Spikers’ title run in the Shakey’s Super League National Invitationals, has been the talk of the town on social media about forgoing her remaining playing years.
Amid the speculations of being poached, Virtual Playground, which handles the incoming PVL rookie, insisted that “it was not Akari who recruited Jazareno but the latter reached out to the team with hopes of making it to the pros and be able to help out with her family.”
Jazareno and Sharma were instrumental in La Salle’s UAAP title campaign, sweeping National University in the finals to exact sweet revenge.
The 23-year-old Jazareno, a La Salle-Zobel product in high school, started playing for the Lady Spikers in Season 82 three years ago when the league was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic. Her floor defense helped La Salle reach the championship in the UAAP last year but lost to the Lady Bulldogs before getting redemption this season to end the school’s five-year title drought.
Jazareno vows to bring all the learnings from coach Ramil De Jesus as she joins veteran libero Bang Pineda after Akari shipped its defensive specialists Dani Ravena and Rachel Jorvina to its sister team, Nxled, which will debut in October.
“The discipline, respect, perseverance, and a champion heart will always be with me,” Jazareno said. “I really am so honored to have trained under Coach Ramil De Jesus. His system will forever leave a mark on me. I think the change of environment will give me additional knowledge and understanding of volleyball and also outside of the volleyball world. I learned a lot from coach Ramil and other coaches that’s why I am who I am today.”
Chargers coach Jorge Souza de Brito will be handling a young core as Jazareno teams up with Faith Nisperos, Trisha Genesis, Michelle Cobb, Erika Raagas, and Jaja Maraguinot alongside veterans Dindin Santiago-Manabat, Eli Soyud, and Janine Marciano. Akari has yet to reach the PVL semis since joining the Reinforced Conference last year.
“I’m super excited to be part of the Akari Chargers. And I am looking forward to more bonding and learning from the team. I felt nervous during my first practice with them, which is normal in joining a new team. But at the same time, I’m excited because the environment is new, but I have adjusted well with the team because they welcomed me,” Jazareno said.
La Salle, meanwhile, lost four key players from its Season 85 title bid with Jolina Dela Cruz and Mars Alba also gone due to graduation. The two are now playing for F2 Logistics.
Jazareno expressed her unending gratitude to La Salle, hoping their fans will continue to support her and Sharma in the pros.
“I would like to thank the La Sallian community who have been there since day one. No one can compare how supportive and caring you guys are! I may have left the DLSU community but my heart will always hail the alma mater. Once a Lady Spiker, always a Lady Spiker! I hope to still see and hear them cheer for me and Fifi in the PVL,” she said.