Athlete Revisited: The life of a Lady Spiker

For the sixth consecutive season, the DLSU Lady Spikers and rivals the ADMU Lady Eagles are squaring off in the UAAP Women’s Volleyball Finals. In the light of another highly anticipated matchup between DLSU and ADMU, The LaSallian sought the opportunity to sit down with former Lady Spikers who represented La Salle during its early years with the UAAP.   

Former Lady Spikers Anna Mauleon-Abola, Jennifer Serra-Ligones, and Mai-Mai Suarez, who donned the Green-and-White under head coach Dante Reyes in the the late 1980s and early 1990s, share their experiences. Furthermore, the pioneers in La Salle’s participation in the UAAP also give their personal views on the league and its evolution into one of the most prestigious competitions in the country.

Fueled by passion

While today’s UAAP volleyball athletes compete at the likes of the FilOil Flying V Centre, Mall of Asia Arena, and Smart Araneta Coliseum, their counterparts once competed in the humble gymnasiums of the designated host university. They simply competed out of pure love for the game, with their fathers and eventual husbands, in particular, rooting for them on Sundays.

Anna Mauleon-Abola and Mai-Mai Suarez wearing jersey numbers 8 and 11, respectively. (Photo from Mai-Mai Suarez)

Suarez enthusiastically recalls one of her favorite moments as an athlete, an instance wherein they were fortunate enough to play one of their games at home in Taft. “That was in La Salle [versus UST] and I guess homecourt advantage [helped] because a lot of people watched,” the Economics major shares.

Without hesitation, Mauleon-Abola agrees. The Psychology major mentions how playing at home with supporters sparked her and the rest of the team. She explains how they were driven to throw their bodies on the floor on defense–an effort which is commonly displayed today by current Lady Spiker libero Dawn Macandili.

“You had the band with all of that and we were really motivated. Patay kung patay yun, we would dive for the balls.”

For honor, pride, and glory

The trio fondly recalled training sessions in their collegiate career, which once took place at the St. Athanasius Gym, which used to occupy the site of the Enrique Yuchengco Building. As true-blooded Lasallians who represented the school, the trio without hesitation stressed the importance of winning their games versus the Lady Eagles. In an era that was mainly dominated by the UST Golden Tigresses and FEU Lady Tamaraws, rivals DLSU and ADMU simply competed for pride.

“If it’s anything that would drive us every game, we were okay to lose against the top four [teams], basta kami, we will not lose to our rivals [the Lady Eagles]. Never! So my entire three years [1987-1990] there, we never lost,” Mauleon-Abola proudly shares. Her former teammate Serra-Ligones, who entered DLSU a year earlier, joyfully thanks her for carrying the team throughout their time together.

co Anna Abola
Anna Mauleon-Abola and Mai-Mai Suarez wearing jersey numbers 8 and 11, respectively. (Photo from Anna Mauleon-Abola)

Similarly, in her time as a Lady Spiker from 1990 to 1993, Suarez points out frantically that they had also never dropped a game to their archrivals.

With the three alumnae continuing to support and follow their alma mater, never did they think that the Lasallians and Ateneans would one day become powerhouses in the UAAP Women’s Volleyball scene, year after year competing for the championship.

“[I] never thought about that [DLSU and ADMU competing for the title]. Now, it’s really nice because they have elevated a lot [in the game], they brought in awareness and now people have realized that it’s such a fun sport,” Serra-Ligones shares.  

In the middle of the most thrilling rivalry in the Philippine collegiate sports, Mauleon-Abola recalls the sportsmanship displayed by the competing players. “So much so, even after the games, we would hang out and eat fish balls doon sa UP after playing with them. It was purely professional competition.”

New times, same game

co Misol Gaston and CNN PHL
Photo from Misol Gaston and CNN Philippines.

When asked about their respective playing positions, the trio simply mentioned that one was either a tosser, which is today referred to as a setter, or a spiker. There were no technical positions back then that the members of the volleyball community today know of. Suarez and Serra-Ligones were utilized as spikers while Mauleon-Abola was designated as their tosser.

The Lasallians, in particular, were impressed with the Lady Spikers’ current setter and team captain Kim Fajardo. Mauleon-Abola was asked if she would have flashbacks from her playing career when seeing Fajardo dump the ball on opposing teams, and without hesitation, proudly says, “Of course, and I would go ‘Yes! I used to do that!’”

The sport of volleyball once featured the side-out scoring system, wherein only teams serving the ball would be able to score. Today, the rally point system is now in place after being made compulsory by the FIVB (International Volleyball Federation) in the year 2000.

Jennie Serra-Ligones (co CNN PHL
Jennie Serra-Ligones donning the Green-and-White. (Photo from Serra-Ligones and CNN Philippines)

Serra-Ligones explains the shift of scoring rules in the game as Suarez also mentions the concept of the libero player, a defense-oriented position introduced in 1998. “A lot of rules have changed. The level of game has also changed. The intensity, it’s very intense [compared to before], and the players [today] are much taller,” the prior shares. Along with the rise in level of competition came recruitment as schools would also scout prospective student-athletes to don their colors.

Life is a sport

Living the lifestyle of a student-athlete is certainly not for the faint of heart. From being able to cope with one’s internal struggles to handling and interacting with people of diverse backgrounds, all three Lasallians gave credit to their respective experiences of playing volleyball for shaping them to become the people that they are today.

Mauleon-Abola shared that the most valuable virtues she picked up from sport would have to be discipline and sportsmanship. “My discipline before as a player and as an athlete, I carry that up to now. Even sportsmanship, which I want to pass on to my kids, hopefully, when they get into any sport.”

(Left to right): Former Lady Spikers Anna Mauleon-Abola, Jennifer Serra-Ligones, and Mai-Mai Suarez.

Serra-Ligones on the other hand, agrees with Mauleon-Abola, but the Computer Science major personally cites the value of teamwork. “I agree with Anna, the discipline, but the teamwork, the camaraderie is something. One thing I learned and which I am applying right now in what I’m doing for our company. I always tell the team, you will never survive if you’re just thinking of yourself.”

Last but not the least, Suarez shared the importance of composure, a value she picked up from the multitude of pressure athletes undergo in games and in training. “Because you played [sports], you kinda go, ‘Okay, take one step back’, take a deep breath, then get yourself going again.”

Although all three alumnae took different career paths after graduating from the University, their values which were once shared with teammates are now being utilized to make a difference at home with their family and in the professional workplace. 

Claro Ignacio Manzano

By Claro Ignacio Manzano

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