While some people have a negative notion on sudden pregnancy, Kai Nepomuceno took the situation as a positive chapter in her life even if it halted the rise of her volleyball career.
For her, it was part of her evolution both as a person and as a player.
Although she was technically part of NU’s first-ever Shakey’s V-League championship team in 2013, Nepomuceno’s rise as one of volleyball’s most potent attackers was cut short when she learned she was expecting.
“Di ko alam na buntis ako noon,” she told FOX Sports. “March 2013 nalaman ko na buntis ako. Then nagstop ako. After noon December nanganak na ko. Pero yung passion ko sa volleyball gusto ko pa ring maglaro.”
“Hindi naman yan pinlano pero hindi ko naman hindi gusto. Syempre para sa akin blessing sya. Tapos yung buong NU team yun yung nakita naming parang yung swerte namin kaya nagchampion kami.”
But the former Lady Bulldog never veered away from volleyball, even if the pregnancy took away her conditioning as she gained weight during the process.
“Ang laki ng nilaki ko nun from 109 lbs to 180 lbs so sobrang laki. Nawalan din akong ganang maglaro kasi iniisip ko ang taba ko na kaya lang may mga team na naniniwala sila sa akin na kaya kong ibalik yung laro ko,” she said.
“May mga nagpupush sa akin (na bumalik), unang una yung husband ko, yung partner ko si Ken. Noong una nanghihinayang din sya kasi peak ko noong nabuntis ako. Yung baby ko parang gusto ko everytime napapanood nya ko, natutuwa sya.”
Kai would then stage a successful comeback with Cignal HD Spikers in 2014 before going back to her mentor, Francis Vicente, in what was supposedly a reunion at Pocari Sweat. Complications between the V-League and the PSL, however, forced Vicente to leave the Lady Warriors.
Nepomuceno stayed on and has since become one of the more reliable players of the bench in a magical season for Pocari, a team on the cusp of the Open Conference championship — a first for the franchise.
“Dito sa team na to kahit na umalis si coach Vince, iba yung feeling ko. Malaki tiwala sa akin ng mga coaches mga teammate ko,” she shared. “Kahit na second six ka kapag pinasok ka parang sobrang laki ng tiwala nila sayo tsaka pinapakita nila na kailangan ka talaga ng team.”
In her return, Nepomuceno said she quickly turned from an aggressive leader to a patient bench player, a foreign territory for her.
Nonetheless, she did not see it as a downgrade in her value as a player but rather found the maturity needed to become a great player.
“Sa NU hindi ako sanay na nababangko. Pero napatunayan ko na sa team na to na hindi naman porket second 6 ka hindi ka masyado nagagamit is wala ka ng matutulong,” she stressed.
“Hindi pala ganon pwede ka din magano ng moral support iangat mo yung teammate mo. Hindi pala puro power kailangan pala may malasakit ka rin sa bawat isa. Kapag nada-down mga teammate ko dati ang nangyayari pinupush mo yung kasama mo ngayon naging sweet din ako sa mga teammate ko.” — By John Chester Fajardo