champs close up
It was drizzling and the wind was blowing, but Nicole Frando and the rest of the girls ignored the cold weather that confronted them as soon as they set foot on the court.
Never mind this was a rainy Saturday and not an ideal day for practice, there’s no stopping Frando and the girl spikers from sharpening their skills for a tough competition ahead.
That big battle will be the Shakey’s Girls’ Volleyball League Tournament of Champions which gets underway January 13, Monday, at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium in Manila.
And just like the rest of the 10 squads seeing action in the five-day event, the Mindanao team—represented mostly by players from the Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) led by Frando—is in the thick of preparations in its quest for volleyball glory.
“Aside from the physical conditioning, we are also preparing in our mental conditioning for the competition. The skills are already there but we have to be mentally prepared,” says Frando, still sweating from a rigorous three-hour practice Saturday supervised by assistant coach Kirk Mojica at Ateneo’s Matina campus.
The 16-year-old Frando skippered Ateneo in winning the Mindanao eliminations last year over Iligan, and was also named team captain of the squad to the national championship.
To Frando, being team captain is nothing new and she knows her responsibility to her teammates fully well.
“This time around, I’m not really that pressured. Last year I was also their team captain. Now, I can say that I’m more confident when I’m playing with them,” says Frando, the team’s setter and one of seven players who will be graduating from high school this year.
Another one of the seniors, Alyssa Alterado, said they are more than prepared for the national finals against a very tough field that included two international teams—Australia and New Zealand.
“I will do better compared last year, although I did not make it to the nationals. We will do our best for the team,” says Alterado, an open spiker who hits the ball hard.
Only standing at five-foot-three, Alterado, also 16, has been one of the top offensive players in the team who can be relied upon during crucial stages of the match.
Mojica said the team is around 80 to 85 percent ready for the finals. The girls, he says, underwent rigid training even during the yuletide season.
The drills included plyometrics training and strength conditioning that had the players spending hours inside the gym and hitting the swimming pool.
Also playing for Mindanao are Jela Pena, Paula Maspinas, Jubilee Therese Acosta, Samantha Dizon, Carol Joy Concon and Katerine Gayle Bermudez of Ateneo de Davao, three players from Iligan and one from Tagum City. Head coach is  Ateneo’s Sherwin Maganda.
Mindanao is in Bracket B together with Central Visayas, Southern Luzon,  Eastern Visayas and New Zealand.
Playing for Bracket A are defending champion National Capital Region, Western Visayas, Central Luzon, Northern Luzon and Australia.
During the final practice last Saturday, the Mindanao girl spikers had tune-up games against college and veteran players, including those from the University of Mindanao.
In several instances, Frando set up Alterado for cross-court kills against their older opponents, while Dizon had her quick spikes scoring points for her team that brightened the eyes of coach Mojica.
On a cold and windy day, these girls were sizzling on the court.
By Charles Raymond A. Maxey