I remember it was the Christmas break in 2009 and I was shuffling through some channels, hoping to find a good show to watch that lazy December afternoon. My favorite shows weren’t being shown then, so I decided to just watch the volleyball game being shown on Studio 23.
That was not the first time I watched a volleyball game, but at that time, I wasn’t the enthusiast that I am right now. I found myself rooting for the taller team, which was UST. For the most part, I did so, probably because they were wearing yellow, which is my favorite color. I was so amazed at Aiza Maizo, Angge Tabaquero and especially Maru Banaticla. UST went on to lose that game, and they gave in to a spirited Ateneo Lady Eagles. I didn’t notice anyone special on that team except Dzi Gervacio.
Then I continued to watch the rest of Season 72 (in which UST eventually won the championship) and really became hooked with volleyball. At some point, I consciously searched for a team to consistently root for. I wanted to be a loyal fan of some team, like some of my friends who were loyal supporters of the Lakers, Ginebra, or some other team. UP seemed to be the obvious choice because you’re supposed to root for your school, right? But, no offense to the UP volleyball teams, it was hard to root for them for the obvious reasons so my heart (or rather, my brain) looked somewhere else.
Everyone loves the underdogs. And in my eyes, the Lady Eagles were the underdogs that were worth rooting for because they were a really good team. They were then, a bunch of sophomores with a few “veterans.” But I loved how the sophomores, the youngsters in the league, were taking the league by storm. It didn’t hurt that they had the unique onesie uniforms which were unmatched til today. Anyway, they finished the season in 3rd place with the core group being just in their second year. Dzi Gervacio was in the top 10 of both Best Scorers and Best Spikers and Jem Ferrer even went on to win the Best Setter award. And as I continued to watch their games, I fell more and more in love with them, especially that core group, which after a few years will be known to many as the “Fab 5.”
After that UAAP season, I was transformed into a certified fan. 3 UAAP seasons and numerous Shakey’s V-league conferences later, I am now a fan celebrating a closing chapter in the history of my beloved team. UAAP Season 75 marks the graduation of that group of ladies which became the reason why I continued to watch volleyball through the years. Though I’ll continue watching volleyball, it will never be the same for me without the Fab 5.
I will miss A Nacachi and Gretchen Ho. While I concede that they are not the best middle blockers to ever grace the volleyball court, they were good enough considering that they were undersized compared to their counterparts from other teams. I will miss the intensity from each of them to do their role in the team despite the physical disadvantages. I will miss how the volleyball crowd will go wild at the mention of Ho’s name. I will miss their sneaky shots and their seemingly weird form during service. It’s their heart, their passion to do their best for the team’s welfare, which I will miss the most from these two.
I will miss Jem Ferrer. Who wouldn’t miss the 3-time UAAP Best Setter awardee? In my opinion, she was the main reason for the team’s success during the Fab 5 era. It was her that made excellent sets out of crappy receptions. It was her that orchestrated combination plays which took my breath away and converted me into a solid supporter of the team. Ateneo did not have the best nor the tallest attackers, but Ferrer’s smarts, court sense and awesome setting skills propelled them to the top. Executing combination after combination play to confuse the opponent’s blockers was Ferrer’s thing. And dropping the second ball to the other side is now considered as “taking a page out of Jem Ferrer’s book” by most commentators. It was also Ferrer, along with Gervacio, that provided the spunk which the team badly needed at crucial moments. She may be the smallest when you talk about height. But when you talk about leadership and volleyball smarts, she is the team’s biggest contributor.
I will miss Fille Cainglet. I will miss the lady who was the main reason I fell in love with the sport and the team in general. I love people who defy stereotypes. And boy, did she. With her lithe frame, you wouldn’t even think that she’s an athlete. She looked like she wouldn’t be an efficient hitter because she was “girly” and lacked power in her attacks. But through the years, she has shown that finesse can very well compete with height and power. Though she didn’t really possess much power, she was, in Seasons 73 and 74, the team’s main scorer. On the defensive end, she acts like a second libero whenever she’s in the backline. Prolific as she was, she always saw to it that she’s having fun during each game. I’ll miss her attacks, but I’ll miss that smile and bubbly personality of hers more than anything. Her smile was her game face. A bundle of joy, that definitely is FilleCainglet.
Finally, I will also miss Dzi Gervacio. The main reason for the team’s success during the Fab 5’s first 2 years. For me, she’s the embodiment of the word “fighter.” Had a bad Season 73, was transferred to the utility position, and came back with a vengeance. I saw in Gervacio what Ateneo’s battlecry is, “One Big Fight!” She faced a setback, but used it as a motivation to improve her game by leaps and bounds. Come Season 74, she was spiking, blocking, digging, receiving and serving like she never did before. She was, during that season, Ateneo’s best bet in the MVP race as she racked up points from numerous departments. She continued her stellar game in the V-league in which she led the statistical race for the MVP award once again. Though the award was not given to her, she was, in the heart of many fans, THE MVP. I will miss her intensity, her attitude, her reaction whenever she gets a block, her power and (try as I might to not mention it here, I have to) her jump serve. She may have been inconsistent at it during her first few years, but when she perfected it, it was a thing of beauty. I will never forget the oohs and aahs of the crowd whenever she executes that topspin jump serve of hers. Many tried to do the same thing, her teammate Cainglet included, but no one came close to the beauty (and potency) of her version. An overall game with a whole lot of heart, that is what she offers and that is what we’ll all miss from this girl.
They may have never tasted a UAAP championship but their legacy will never be forgotten. From cellar dwellers, they have transformed the Ateneo team into a solid Final Four contender. Yes, their journey was filled with inconsistencies, lapses, uncanny losses and gripping 5-setters. Yet, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. True blue student-athletes from the inside out, that’s what they are. Their collegiate careers may have ended, but their contributions for the growth of the sport will forever remain, especially in the hearts of their fans. As they say, all good things must come to an end. But with endings also come beginnings. While we fans see it as a new chapter for the Ateneo volleyball program as they start rebuilding once again, it can also be said that it is a beginning of a new chapter of their lives. Life after college volleyball. We can now thank them for those 5 years of giving us the opportunity to see them play and pour their hearts out on the volleyball court. And we can now wish them the best in their pursuit of this new chapter, may it be professional volleyball, employment, further studies or whatever it may be. And for the last time, thank you and One Big Fight, FAB 5! -by Harvey Aquino Bilang (@HarvsCount)
Photos courtesy of Jem Ferrer and Deal Or No Deal Images