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Athlete revisited: Two-time champion Michelle Cobb exits DLSU with grace

Before deciding to go pro, star setter Michelle Cobb had to endure a tough decision of leaving the DLSU Lady Spikers.

“Of course, it wasn’t an easy decision. But I know for myself na I thought about it wholeheartedly,” former DLSU Lady Spiker Michelle Cobb admits after deciding to forgo her final playing year this UAAP Season 84.

Coming from their third three-peat championship run, the Lady Spikers fell short in bagging the elusive four-peat in the UAAP Women’s Volleyball tournament in Season 81 as they settled for bronze. Veteran holdovers Cobb, Aduke Ogunsanya, and Tin Tiamzon vowed to propel their rookie-laden team to a championship once again in Season 82 with their heads held high and arrows aiming forward. However, this ambitious plan was foiled by the sudden COVID-19 outbreak.

The ladies from Taft were unfortunately left with minimal veteran presence this season as the three seniors with championship experience decided not to come back for the last ride. While veterans Ogunsanya and Tiamzon have turned pro, the prolonged offseason due to the pandemic was a “long two years” for Cobb—significantly affecting her decision, which was officially announced on her Instagram account back in April.

From striving to thriving

Unlike other athletes who were scouted and recruited from high school tournaments, the playmaker out of St. Scholastica’s College Manila started from scratch as a tryout hopeful, working her way to the top of La Salle’s volleyball program. Cobb reveals that she did not get a callback from the first day of the tryouts and questioned if volleyball was her calling to pursue—until a fortuitous meeting occurred shortly after.

“I guess parang meant [to be] ‘yung nangyari sa akin. When school started, they saw me walking around campus and they recognized me from the tryouts, so they asked me if I could train. Coach Noel Orcullo asked me to train, and then that’s how it started for me,” she furthers.

(I guess what happened back then was really meant for me.)

Getting into the team was only the beginning of a long road filled with difficult adjustments. Being a student athlete entailed familiarizing herself with one of collegiate volleyball’s best programs. “It was more about me adjusting to the intensity of the training kasi very known ang La Salle na mabigat ang training. Dalawa ‘yun eh: adjusting to college life and academics, and at the same time, your new lifestyle in La Salle,” the Lady Spiker alumna shares. She reveals it took her two years to master the system after joining the team back in 2015.

(La Salle is known for their rigorous training.)

Eventually, Cobb transitioned to playing in the team’s first six, filling in the void of decorated setter Kim Fajardo. “I remember when I started playing for the first six, every first game of the season, [Kim would] always message me [kasi] gets naman niya ‘yung pressure [ng role],” she expresses. Despite the ups and downs of her UAAP career, Cobb remains “very thankful” for teammates like Fajardo who guided her all throughout.

Experiencing winning culture

As athletes like Cobb exit La Salle with much individual success, none of their accolades would exist without the guidance of a coach through their development stages and their path toward victory, maintaining a system that befits what is expected of their capabilities. Just like other DLSU legends, Cobb’s ability to deliver even at the most crucial moments stems from the program’s ability to mold talented athletes—successfully producing seasoned volleyball personalities left and right.

After experiencing the culture firsthand, the champion setter expresses how the system is effective in producing players who embody consistency, “You’re going to be sure that this [incoming] batch will be the same with the current batch.” Even with graduating players, the Lady Spikers’ strength remains in existence as the coaching staff adapts to new techniques and new skills, maintaining a competitive level of play.

But a good system does not just build an athlete’s character; beyond the court, a good sports program cultivates relationships even off the court.

Having two championships under her belt—which she recounts as one of her most memorable moments as a Lady Spiker—Cobb values the team’s experiences in dealing with difficult moments. “Looking back at it now, sobrang memorable ‘yung mga hard times with the team kasi that’s where we banked on our relationship and that’s where we got stronger together,” the former La Salle setter stresses.

On top of that, Cobb believes that the leadership of DLSU head coach Ramil de Jesus is a prominent factor in building the team’s highly-touted reputation. Having a system that is consistently maintained even today shows his wisdom and experience. Cobb describes him as a “winning coach” who embodies “consistency”, even during the direst moments. “Kahit [na] things don’t work out in this certain field or this certain area [in the players’ performance], parang may pag-asa palagi,” Cobb explains.

(…there’s always hope.)

Onto the next

Capping off a stellar Lady Spiker career, Cobb details how she learned the importance of commitment throughout her journey. “You just have to experience everything for you to learn everything, trust the process. It’s either you commit or you don’t. And by commit, I mean you commit your whole heart and life. You get to learn a lot, you get to learn values, you get to learn how to sacrifice a lot of things but in the end, you know it is rewarding.”

Leaving with memorable experiences as a Lasallian and with valuable lessons from arguably one of college volleyball’s best programs, Cobb mentions that she took the time to rest and to reflect after her very hectic student athlete life. Though she may seem to enjoy being on break from her active lifestyle as an athlete, the volleyball career of the former Lady Spiker is far from over.

Last July 5, the Akari Power Chargers announced their recruitment of Cobb. The young club, which recognized the Lasallian’s stellar setting prowess, is set to join the Philippine Volleyball League Reinforced Conference scheduled to commence in October.

Prior to this, the setter played for the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers in semiprofessional tournaments organized by Philippine Super Liga before while still playing for DLSU. But unlike her predecessors Fajardo, Ara Galang, Kim Dy, Majoy Baron, and Dawn Macandili, among others, it will be with Akari that Cobb will debut as a professional volleyball player. This will also be her first time stepping out of the familiar and respected system of de Jesus.

While some fans wanted her to continue playing for the Cargo Movers, the majority expressed their excitement to again witness Cobb’s fierceness on the court, backed by the disruptive serves, admirable vertical leap, commendable floor defense, and steady setting skills Michelle Cobb has always been always known for.

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