Sisi Rondina gathered her team on the court one last time while Ateneo was celebrating on the other side of the net. With tears streaming down her face, the graduating captain thanked her teammates and the UST community for an unforgettable season.
It was a heartbreaking moment for Rondina, who came so close to fulfilling her promise of bringing the crown back to España.
"I knew that my time as a Golden Tigress was over," Rondina said. "It was painful because I didn't want it to end. I wanted to be a champion Golden Tigress."
Coming off a seventh-place finish last season, the young Tigresses took a huge leap this year. They dethroned three-time champion La Salle in the semifinals and defeated Ateneo in the first game of the championship series.
With MVP Rondina and top rookie Eya Laure in charge, they almost completed their fairytale story. But in a battle of two finalists yearning for redemption, a more experienced Ateneo squad prevailed in the endgame.
"I knew that it was Ateneo's destiny this year, we just challenged it," said Rondina. "It was still a good run for us."
The 5'6" spiker from Cebu has come a long way. From a freshman eager to prove her worth, she blossomed into one of the best athletes to ever play in the league. A four-time champion and MVP in beach volleyball, Rondina wanted to gain success in the indoor tourney as well. She worked doubly hard to bring glory to the school that opened up multiple opportunities for her and her family.
Throughout her collegiate career, Rondina's fighting spirit has been unquestionable. One of the smallest players with the biggest hearts, she always leaves everything on the floor when she plays. Her passion and commitment served as inspiration for her teammates.
"I saw how much she loves UST so I told myself that I'll love UST in the same way," Laure said. "The love that she shows even if she's hurting or she's tired, the leadership that she gave to us, I want to get all that from her so that I can use it in future games and future seasons."
Coach Kungfu Reyes is grateful that Rondina took on the challenge of transforming a rebuilding team into immediate title contenders.
"As Sisi said, even if we didn't end up as champions, at least our playing attitude changed. She wanted to change the mindset and character of the team," Reyes said.
Rondina fell short of her ultimate goal but the UST community will remember how she fought until the very last rally. Champion or not, she leaves behind a winning legacy that the Tigresses can build on in the years to come.
"I really wanted to leave something memorable for UST before I graduate," she said. "We may not have taken the crown but we brought the team back to the finals. I just want to pay back what UST gave me."