It's the human and fun side of our sports heroes

This lady is way better than Valdez

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Yes, there is someone better than the reigning and back-to-back UAAP MVP Alyssa Valdez.

That would be Natalie Cruz of formerly the UST Glowing Goldies—the team that ruled the UAAP for seven straight years (1985 to 1991). Cruz also led the Tigresses-packed 1993 National Team that won the SEA Games Gold Medal the same year.

1993 marked the last time that the Philippine Womens Volleyball team won the SEA Games gold medal.

“Ay mas magaling to (Natalie). ‘Yung volleyball ngayon na-media hype so akala ninyo sobrang lakas na niya. Pero kung napapanood niyo ‘yung before, wala. Even ‘yung No. 1 (volleyball player) na si Thelma Barina cannot be compared with anyone ngayon. Sobrang panlalaki ang laro nun,” Cruz’s former UST teammate Carmela “Bubbles” Abella-Barredo said in a ABS-CBN Sports report when asked who was better: Cruz or Valdez.

“Ito si Natalie open spiker sa national team, wala pa akong nakitang isang player na katulad niya na kung pumalo pababa. Wala talaga eh, wala ‘yung baon na baon ‘yung palo,” Abella-Barredo added in the same report.

Cruz agreed with Abella-Barredo that the game is not really about power these days.

“Dati power play talaga, parang lalake ang laro. Ngayon pabilisan. At saka dati nagko-concentrate na kami more on plays, hindi lang ‘yung basta-bastang open, quick, open. Nagko-concentrate na kami sa plays,” Cruz pointed out in the same ABS-CBN Sports interview.

Abella-Barredo, however, clarified that she does not hate Valdez who has a likewise stellar UAAP resume: a five-time UAAP champion (three with UST High School and two with Ateneo in college division) and a five-time UAAP MVP (three with UST High School and two with Ateneo).

“Alyssa is a former Thomasian athlete…we like her passion and the commitment to the sport that we love. Magaling siya and very humble. She knows about this interview and she had fun listening to our stories. So to all the fans of Aly, peace! Your support is the key to the success of volleyball!,” Abella Barredo said.

But hey, can you blame the ladies for setting the standards too high? The vaunted UST team of Cruz, Abella-Barredo, Mozzy Ravena, Vilet Ponce De Leon, Annaliza Yu-Lucero, Julie Ogayon, Myra Balaquiot, Carmen Gadiongco, Mylene Cuenca Bacud and Tina Ignacio under the legendary Coach August Sta. Maria once won 10 tournaments in a year back in 1991 and used to dominate their opponents in three sets with a score of 15-0 per set as if they are out on cherry picking.

And Valdez will get there. For one, she already led the Lady Eagles to a second straight UAAP title in a never before done 16-0 season sweep.

Valdez just needs more time. (Jen Soltano)