by Mark Edward Lopez
First of three parts.
(Editor’s note: This article is a three-part series. The next parts will be published in the coming days.)
In 2013, Desiree Cheng, Kim Dy, Dawn Macandili, and Majoy Baron set foot in the UAAP with hefty portfolio and big roles to fill in.
A group of prized recruits from the high school ranks, these quartet added more firepower to the then four-peat seeking DLSU Lady Spikers.
Expectations were high for these ladies, especially for Cheng and Macandili who will try to fill defensive void left by UAAP champions Michele Gumabao and Melissa Gohing.
With Ara Galang, Aby Maraño, Mika Reyes and Kim Fajardo still maximizing their playing year, DLSU was the favorite to win the title.
A question reverberates during the pre-season of UAAP 76: Can they do it?
Can they follow the triumphant footsteps of former Lady Spikers and champions Manilla Santos, Cha Cruz, and Jacq Alarca?
Can they keep the winning tradition of the Ramil de Jesus squad? Can they continue the legacy, and be legends, too?
FROM BENCH TO MVP: MAJOY BARON
— ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) April 15, 2018
In her seat by the window of the bus, Majoy Baron could already see the all too familiar FilOil Flying V Arena.
Her thoughts were on their last game against NU — the Lady Bulldogs handed DLSU their first loss of the season.
Baron hardly slept the night after that game. The team immediately went back to Taft, discussed what went wrong, and trained — harder.
And while she knows that there is nothing left to do but move on, the middle blocker can’t help but blame herself for that setback—if only she guarded Santiago a little bit tighter, if only she was quicker, if only she was more of everything in that game.
Who would have imagined they would lose when they were already ahead by four in the final set?
But then, Baron thought, who would have imagined she would be part of the La Salle squad?
Five years ago, Baron’s name lived under the shadows of her co-rookies Des Cheng, Kim Dy and Dawn Macandili.
It would usually take time before people could recognize her as the 5’11” new recruit of the then four-peat seeking squad. She hardly even saw minutes in her first season.
A Palarong Pambansa player who represented CLRAA region, the lanky spiker hopped on the ship brimming with hope to be part of La Salle’s starting lineup.
The green and white squad still had Aby Maraño and Mika Reyes that time though, which left her no choice but stand from the bench player’s area and wait for her name to be summoned.
The following season, Baron cracked into the starting lineup, replacing Dy, who was, at that time, struggling to perform in the middle. Her limited time turned out productive as her long arms rejected kill after kill.
They lose to ADMU for two seasons in a row. Although that season ended not in favor of them it was, for Baron, the start of her rise.
Baron, along with Reyes, Macandili, and Fajardo, suit up for Meralco Power Spikers in the 2015 Philippine Super Liga Grand Prix.
With proper hardwork and perseverance, she earned the trust of the fans, the players, and, most importantly, coach Ramil de Jesus.
— ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) April 15, 2018
This girl is something, people would whisper.
She is more than something, though.
When UAAP opened anew, Baron guarded the net like a mother tigress to her cubs. Her hardwork was shown in every spike she unleashed, every kill she scored, every serve she aced.
The Taft-based squad relied on Baron’s wit and defense, and they were right to do so. Because when that season ended, aside from retaining the championship, they produced yet another caliber middle blocker.
Her perseverance, patience and trust in the system molded her into a force at the net—the Baroness of Block.
Resilient, unyielding, and fierce, the team captain hat fit Baron as if it was personally made for her.
She was later named MVP of Season 79, and Best Middle Blocker in 2017 PSL All Filipino Conference. True enough, the shower of blessings continue to come for her, who has worked non-stop to become what she is now.
Suddenly, the bus jolted to a stop, pulling Baron out of her thoughts.
As her teammates gather their things, Baron gathered her composure. She knew that this was not the time to mull over their past mistakes. Their focus should be centered on today’s game instead.
She is aware that being a leader to a squad as elite as DLSU will be a tough job, knowing the likes of Maraño, Santos and Cruz have perfectly lead the team during their respective time.
Her team was looking up to her leadership, though, so that is what she is going to do.
Be a leader.
Baron stood up and signalled for everyone to stop. They did, out of respect to their captain. Her heart leaped, warmth filling her body. She smiled despite of herself.
She said, her voice surprisingly strong, “Let’s do this, girls!”
And out of the corner of her eye, she caught coach Ramil smiling at her, too.
Somehow, that is everything she needs.
BIG SURPRISE: KIM DY
— ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) April 15, 2018
Height. Great net defense. Versatility.
These are the perfect ingredients to make a Lady Spiker. Having all these traits, it was only fitting that Kim Kianna Dy was early predicted to be one of the apparent heirs to the great Ramil de Jesus program.
A multiple UAAP Juniors champion and awardee, Dy is part of the strongest recruitment coup for DLSU that saw their first UAAP action in season 76.
Greatness is written all over Dy. She could replace the two-time UAAP Best Blocker Michele Gumabao who decided to forego her fifth playing year, or be the successor to Aby Maraño, a two-time UAAP MVP who played her final season that year.
She could even wreak havoc from the wings—a worthy diagonal for the hard hitting Ara Galang.
Long story short: The 5’10” spiker oozed with skills, confidence and promise.
But there’s one thing she lacked, and it dictated how her next two years unfolded: the perfect timing.
The De La Salle Zobel standout saw limited minutes during her debut season with Galang and Cyd Demecillo performing well in the outside hitter position, while the middle was already well-guarded by Maraño and Mika Reyes.
Cheng, meanwhile, has occupied the opposite. She didn’t get enough time to flex muscles; spent most of the season warming up the bench, counting off precious seconds as they trickled down into nothing.
Later that year, after DLSU lost the crown to ADMU, Dy served as the middle blocker for Shopinas who competed in that year’s Philippine Superliga All Filipino Conference.
Game after game, Dy was able to showcase what she is made of: power, speed and solid defense at the net.
So when the club faced Petron in the Finals, it was no surprise that the Dindin Santiago-Rachel Daquis-Maraño troika kept her on their watchlist, seeing her as the threat that has to be contained.
RELATED STORY: UAAP Season 80 Volleyball stats after the elimination round
In UAAP Season 77, expectations bubbled up again, especially when Dy was hailed player of the game in their second match against NU.
But Maraño’s shoes were too big to fill in. Her performance was again criticized as it went down notch by notch as the tournament progressed. And in the final stages of the season, she was entirely replaced by Mary Joy Baron in the starting lineup.
It was as if life shook her head.
She could have bolted out, left for another university. Rumored spread all over the social media that Dy was going to jump to DLSU’s rival and tormentor: ADMU Lady Eagles.
People started taking sides. Lady Spikers fans revolted, while the Eagles’ supporters rejoiced.
But Dy, a faithful player, asked De Jesus, who has been like a father to the team, what his plans were for her. The award-winning guru might have flashed his dimples, placed his warm hands on top of Dy’s shoulders, and told her to be patient.
Dy, though, is not a Taft player for nothing. She put her entire trust on De Jesus, kept the faith, and waited for the right time for her to shine.
— ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) April 11, 2018
It did come. And when that plan was realized, it was one of the most successful move in Philippine volleyball.
Everybody was shocked and surprised when De Jesus inserted her back to the starting lineup when they faced ADMU during the first round of season 79. But instead of manning the middle, Dy played opposite.
It was a move meant to last.
Dy blossomed once again into someone who instills fear among DLSU’s opponents. Her new position seemed to fit her like an old dress she cannot outgrow, one that doesn’t seem to fit at first.
Dy, the new opposite hitter with her newly found confidence and resurgence of believers, towed DLSU until the end of their campaign, top scoring for the rest of the season
The green-and-white squad reclaimed their throne that season. At the head of the battalion was Dy—Dy who kills, Dy who blocks, Dy who aces.
Amid the confetti and tears, there was also Dy the Finals MVP.
Her outstanding performance that season was followed by a semi-pro league title with F2 Logistics, and another UAAP championship in season 79.
When Dy was cut off from the initial 14-man line-up of the national team, her fans and Philippine volleyball supporters alike complained, knowing what a Kim Kianna Dy could bring to the team.
Perfect timing once again showed up at her doorsteps as she was chosen to be the late addition for the RP team.
Her patience worked.
After years of struggle, of walking on a road built from high expectations, of standing on the sidelines, it seems that Dy has found the perfect time, or the perfect time has found her.
Either way, there is only one lesson here: perfect time comes to those who can wait.