Paneng Mercado knows what champions are made of. After all, she helped La Salle win a couple of titles during her stay in Taft.
On Saturday, Mercado witnessed the Lady Spikers hand Ateneo a 4-set beating, being one of the almost 23, 000 people at the Smart Araneta Coliseum who were on hand to see La Salle rise to the top again.
“Sobrang nakaka-proud kasi ang tagal na hindi naging champion yung team namin, tapos ngayon talagang nagtrabaho sila para maging champion ulit,” she told FOX Sports.
After seeing the Lady Spikers waste a 2-set lead in Game 2, Mercado lauded the wards of coach Ramil de Jesus for stepping up to the plate and making adjustments when and where necessary.
“Mas nakita ko yung eagerness nila to win and maging champion sila ngayon,” she said. “Natuto sila sa game na yun and nakita naman yun.”
The title is La Salle’s ninth in the women’s division and with Mercado being a member of some of those champion squads, she can’t help but compare the teams she’s been in — usually business-like and stoic — to the new UAAP queens.
“Difference lang is yung energy nila ay may willingness to win and play as one para manalo ng championship,” she said. “Mas marami silang galaw, mas maraming energy, at mas maf-feel mo kung gaano sila kasaya every point.”
Mercado, the daughter of sprint queen Lydia de Vega, pointed to Fnials MVP Kim Dy and Best Setter Kim Fajardo for delivering the goods for the Green and White.
And with at least 5 players in Ara Galang, Mika Reyes, Cyd Demecillo, Mika Esperanza and Carol Cerveza leaving, the ex-Meralco spiker said it will be hard for the Lady Spikers to go back-to-back.
Nonetheless, Mercado believes coach Ramil de Jesus has tricks in his bag to make sure La Salle remains a contender.
“Matagal pa naman yung next season, for sure makakagawa sila ng paraan para hindi ma-feel yung pagkawala ng graduating players.” — By Arylle Magtalas