It is easy to credit the current superstars of the local volleyball scene for the astronomic rise of the sport in terms of its popularity.
Regardless whether it’s about the live audience, the social media hype or the TV viewership, there is no denying that UAAP volleyball is now one of the most anticipated tournaments in the country.
But while the surge in following coincided with the arrival of the a new breed of student-athletes, the league’s biggest stars, Alyssa Valdez and Ara Galang, choose to deflect the recognition.
For them, volleyball’s rise started even before they came into the picture.
“It’s not because of us,” Valdez humbly told FOX Sports.
“The rise of volleyball should be credited to our idols like (Ging) Balse, (Venus) Bernal, (Rachel) Daquis and everyone we were looking up to back in the day,” she added, talking about the erstwhile powerhouse spikers of UST.
True enough, the spotlight on UAAP volleyball, especially on TV, started back in Season 69 when the UST-FEU rivalry was in full-swing.
Before the Ateneo-La Salle series of championships, there was the epic finals matchup between FEU and Adamson which was followed by the exciting finale between La Salle and UST.
Galang, on her part, says she was just at the right place, at the right moment when the focus was all of a sudden directed at her beloved sport.
“For me, it wasn’t us who spurred the interest of the fans,” she said. “There was Cha Cruz, Paneng Mercado, Jacq Alarca and many more who played their hearts out in the court despite the little exposure they were getting.”
“Us being here, under the limelight, is just all about timing. But our seniors were the ones who laid a good foundation and raised the bar,” added the Pampanga native.
To this, Valdez agrees.
On giving credit to where it's due, the Lady Eagle shares, “The players before us established a good foundation. We just continued what they started.”
Aside from their seniors, the major exposure and the throng of support from advertisers, Valdez and Galang, who have hundreds of thousands of followers on their respective social media accounts, didn’t fail to credit the fans for the undying support.
From empty bleachers to jam-packed arenas, the fans, according to the UAAP champs, are the game-changers.
“The support of the fans are unbelievable,” Galang said wide-eyed. “Whether it be during games or on social media, they really make you feel the love and I’m very thankful.”
Valdez adds, “The lesson here is we helped each other. From the fans, the media and the players, everyone put in their share which allowed volleyball to become this big.”
And now that the big names are on their way out of the UAAP door, it will be up to the up-and-coming stars to keep the fire burning by delivering quality games to the public.
“I think the pressure is on them. It’s tough for them because they will be ones carrying the torch after us,” Valdez said.
“But then we have to remind ourselves why we’re here. We’re here because we love the sport. At the end of the day, you have to be able to tell yourself that you’re here because you want to play,” she added.
Talking about the sport’s future, Galang seems unfazed.
“The talent will be there especially now that many kids are starting to learn at such a young age,” closed the La Salle star.