SportsCurtain call: Kim Fajardo puts storybook ending to hallowed UAAP career
Curtain call: Kim Fajardo puts storybook ending to hallowed UAAP career

In her five years in the UAAP, Kim Fajardo has seen everything. She has been a part of the arguably the most popular generation of Lady Spikers, while also serving as the bridge between that group and the current crop of young stars led by the likes of libero Dawn Macandili, MVP (Most Valuable Player) Majoy Baron, and Finals MVPs Kim Kianna Dy and Desiree Cheng. This season’s Best Setter and Best Server also experienced the more recent and colorful chapters of the ADMU-La Salle rivalry, the last two of which have seen DLSU come out on top.

Once her UAAP career came to a close, Fajardo remained at a loss for words, with all the emotions running over her and the confetti showering all over the Smart Araneta Coliseum. It would, after all, be the last time she put on a La Salle jersey, so she had every right to soak it all in.

One of the UAAP’s best setters

Being a Lady Spiker means that winning a UAAP championship is both the highest and lowest expectation every year.  In five finals appearances, Fajardo has been part of three title-winning teams, the last two of which she saw her play the role of veteran and team captain.

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“Lagi kong iniisip na kung ano yung character ko, character ng team ko, so palagi yun yung nakalagay sa utak ko,” Fajardo said, adding that this mindset has been with her in every game she has played. (My mindset is that I always think that the character I display will display that of the team’s.)

Individually, Fajardo has earned other accolades that have gotten her the distinction of one of the more elite setters in the game. Through her five years in the UAAP, she has been named Best Setter thrice, earning the award this season along with the Best Server award. Aside from these, she has earned awards for her efforts in the Philippine National Games and even represented the country in the 2016 FIVB (International Volleyball Federation) Women’s Club World Championship.

Succeeding on the biggest stage

In what was her final championship series, Fajardo exhibited her ability to set-up her teammates for their attacks, also showing her offensive prowess by going on the attack on a number of crucial rallies. Through two finals games, the team captain averaged eight points and 40 excellent sets. She also totaled 11 service aces in those two games and even finished with 10 excellent digs in Game 1, only behind this season’s Best Receiver Dawn Macandili, who had 28 in that game.

Beyond the numbers, Fajardo was the one who helped calm her teammates down whenever they would be staring at deficits amidst the loud cheers of the ADMU crowd. Any other player on any other team would have been at least rattled by that, but having been with an elite team like DLSU for five years, Fajardo knows the capabilities of her squad.

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Atin to. Walang bibitaw. Kukunin na natin to,” she said when asked about what she told her teammates when they were down two sets to one in Game 2. (This is ours. No letting go. We’re going to get this.)

The confidence and perseverance in her words and actions allowed her to overcome two obstacles that made the run to back-to-back titles more difficult. Having to lead a team that lost seniors like Mika Reyes, Ara Galang, and Cyd Demecillo, coupled with her plantar fascia injury, Fajardo had to rely on the support of her teammates as much as they needed her in the most important stages of the tournament.

After absorbing tough losses in their two elimination games against the ADMU Lady Eagles, one would expect Fajardo and the Lady Spikers to come out with a different approach in the championship round. When asked if there was any change to the way she or her team trained, she admitted there wasn’t any drastic change, focusing more on the intangibles rather than skills.

“It’s all about the heart talaga,” she said. “Tsaka dito, kung sino yung mas gusto manalo, yun yung mananalo.” (Here, whoever wants it more will win.)

A little over a year ago today, the Lady Spikers succeeded in gaining back the UAAP Volleyball title from the Lady Eagles in a thrilling three-game series. Back then, Fajardo did not comment on whether she would suit up for her fifth year, since she was still basking in her second UAAP title.

It was not until late last year when she finally committed to the team for Season 79. After seeing all the individual and team accolades, coupled with ending her career in a way that many athletes dream of, it was all worth it.

“Mahirap ‘yun [palitan], isa lang yun. Iisa ‘yung Kim Fajardo,” coach De Jesus said in giving tribute to one of his most prized wards. (It’s hard to replace her, she stands out. There’s only one Kim Fajardo)