Freeman Cebu Sports

The man behind the “Lady Magis Eagles”

Allan Choachoy - Associated Press

CEBU, Philippines - Basketball has always been the all-time favorite sport of the Filipinos. It is interesting to note, however, that volleyball is slowly getting recognized in the local sports scene. Just recently, the Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu Lady Magis Eagles won the secondary girls volleyball championship of the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc. (CESAFI).  The group is making so much attention that to my surprise, they have some local followers and fan base from other provincial teams. You have got to love their enthusiasm, dedication and passion. Actually, the core of this team had been training for the past five years already, the same time that the school started its volleyball program. Last year, the Lady Magis Eagles went all the way to the finals but lost to Southwestern University, which was relegated to only third place this year. The core group of the team started in grade school training under coach Mario Sala, the man behind the success of SHS-Ateneo volleybelles. They have a very young but promising lineup starting with Grade 8 Angelyna Canieso, Grade 9 Nice Suello and Jennifer de los Santos, Grade 10 Danielle Malazarte, Nina Jordan, Yanah Sanchez, Cristina Mercado and Shanika Pardillo, and grade 11 Kyla Sy, Kaye Santos, Rosdine Torre, Paula Canete, Mikhaella Rubic and Uleah Avila.

Kaye Santos, one of the pioneering members of the team, added feathers on their cap by winning the covered MVP award on top of her being the Best Setter. The 16-year-old spiker suffered pains on her knees but fought valiantly to carry the Lady Magis Eagles to a resounding victory in their finals series against the equally-tough University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R).  Three of her teammates also received special awards in Danielle Marie Malazarte (Best Blocker), Jennifer de los Santos (Best Attacker) and Paula Canete (Best Libero).

What made this team extra special is that the core of the team is solid and started from grassroots training. Pure ‘Hearters’ as Coach Sala would put it. Others came in Grade 7. There were members who were offered scholarship from different schools but declined and stayed on. For me, nothing compares to the quality  education that one can benefit from Ateneo de Cebu. Coach Sala keeps his players on their toes always and revamps his lineup after each tournament. Coach maintains a pool of players which is under training all year round so if one player slacks off in practice their spot are open to these undertrainees.   

The volleyball program started from humble beginnings. In my interview with Coach Sala, he mentioned the stages of the volleyball program development. First is “drawing interest to the sport”: Coach Sala saw some students playing after school and agreed to see them after dismissal time to play volleyball.

The second stage is “Planting the passion for the game”: Interest makes you try something but passion pushes you to sacrifice for progress. Here, we tried to start learning the fundamentals of the game and the right attitude needed. We also tried to consistently practice during dismissal time at least thrice a week. When the passion for the sport grew, then it was time for new challenges. Said Coach Sala.

Stage 3 involves in “Building Team Spirit”. Here, the girls are challenged to get out of their comfort zones, their preferences and priorities to help build a real team; not competing against each other but helping each other to achieve greater heights. This is also the stage that the team went out to the neighboring schools for fun and friendly games.

Stage 4 is “Test the Water” – This is the stage where we tried to put the team into real competitions in order to see how far we still have to push ourselves. As expected, the team is seriously far behind the competitions, even with the non-CESAFI teams.

 The last final stage is “The Magis” – This is the stage where everyone was challenged to see what’s beyond and to never be contented with the comforts of the abundance of life. This is the time when everyone was asked to really manage their time for academics, family and friends while consistently train with focus and intention…ere, we tried to be more aware of our strengths and weaknesses. It is in this stage that we started to gain the results of our sacrifices.

Coach Sala had never been with a team that trained with intention like the one he made with Lady Magis Eagles. In his high school years in Boljoon National High School, he just practiced with friends/ classmates a week prior to the Unit Meets or District Meets. Then in college, he was part of the CSCST (now CTU) team. They had a good coach but there were only a very few competitions. Honestly, “I was never a good volleyball player,” said coach Sala.

Coach Sala makes up from lack of experience through reading and research on anything he did not know about volleyball coaching. He was also glad that SHS-Ateneo entrusted him and gave him the opportunity to develop a volleyball team . The time he spent with the volleyball team also means time spent away from his wife and family. But to coach Sala, he is not coaching a team. He is trying to build a legacy for the school and someday inspire others.

Coach Sala would also like to thank his family for the support, players, parents and to the coaching staff in Jamel Macasamat and Jordan Paca.

 Have said that, we need more coaches and people like him, passionate and dedicated.

SIDELINE: Good luck to the METAFIT Tri Team for their race today in San Remigio. Led by Fritz Co, the team is composed of Zusette Co, Pim Co, Joy Padilla Bascug, Christian Demoral and Golda Cutanda. The same goes to the Metafit relay entries in Team PURA of Eric Limatog and Maui Recla, Metafit Teen Edition of Kenji Co, John Pimentel and Carlisle Choachuy and Team Metafit of Mae Canedo,  Jinggoy Bascug and Mae Canedo.  (FREEMAN)

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