For Jade Fuentes, a spot on the court isn’t given. It’s earned

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If you already thought that the DLSU Lady Spikers’ frontline this past UAAP Season 82 – for one game, at least – looked formidable, then last week’s announcement of 5’11” open spiker Jade Fuentes committing to the Green and White squad should help super-size the team’s line-up for years to come.

Imagine a starting six consisting of Season 82 rookies Thea Gagate (6’2”) and Leila Cruz (6’1”) and the incoming Fuentes, and the words “block party” and “Great Green Wall” should immediately come to most fans and supporters’ minds.

With the UAAP Board deciding to cancel the rest of UAAP 82 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and not much sporting news happening in the past month, the news of the open spiker from Eagle Rock High School in Los Angeles, California going to Taft Ave. provided not only updates to La Salle’s plans for the future but also some glimmer of hope to a volleyball-crazed nation starving for something to talk about.

Before formalizing her decision to don colors of La Salle, Fuentes admitted to having a few options for her collegiate career: “I considered staying in the United States (US) to play volleyball in college; I was being scouted by multiple teams here. (In the) Philippines, the schools that I was interested in were Ateneo and DLSU.”

“I watched the Season 82 game of DLSU versus Ateneo and I could see that it was well-attended, and during the game, you could hear the cheers from the crowd over the announcers. I also saw how the teams were, and the game had a high level of competition.”

As a member of the CIF Los Angeles City Section Open Division champion team of Eagle Rock High and MVP of the same tournament, the level of play in the US should form a solid foundation when Fuentes takes her talents to the local UAAP volleyball scene.

The announcement, posted on social media through Instagram, was equally praised by La Salle supporters and raised not a few eyebrows from skeptics and fans from other UAAP schools. But growing up and playing in a different culture will also serve Fuentes well when playing in front of raucous crowds that the eight-member league is known to have.

“In all honesty, this situation (chance to play/playing time) probably would’ve happened in any college that I will go. A spot on the court isn’t given, it’s earned. Yes, I will be up against a lot of competition, but due to this, I’ll be able to grow more as a player. I think that as long as I work hard and put in maximum effort, then I’ll be happy with whatever happens.”

Below is a excerpt of our interview with the Lady Spikers’ newest recruit, Jade Fuentes:

How did you come to know DLSU and its volleyball program? Did an alumnus discover/scout you and recommended you to coach Ramil de Jesus (RdJ) and his program?
My interest in playing in the Philippines started with tito/coach Koy Banal; he was the one who guided me through the process, and advised me about which schools would be the best for me, and DLSU is one of them. I also got to know about the program through different angles. Things happened at the right time and it was mutually beneficial.

What do you think will be your main adjustments with regards to living in a new country and dealing with teammates who come from different cultural backgrounds?
It’s probably going to be difficult getting used to the new time zone and weather, as well as not being able to speak Tagalog. I am excited that La Salle is very diverse, so I won’t feel like the odd one out. Even through watching their games, you can sense good team chemistry and genuine care for each other.

Is there a skill that you feel needs improvement? Where do you think coach RdJ can help you with in terms of developing your game further?
Transitioning from high school to college, I know that there are still a lot of things that I can improve, and from what I’ve learned about Coach Ramil, I’m sure he will push me to become a better player.

You are due to graduate high school in the US soon, but how are you now preparing for your transition to La Salle and the Philippines?
Our schedule ends in June, and due to COVID-19, I’m doing the best that I can. I’ve been researching the school and team, talking to my family members, and taking virtual tours of the campus. I’ve also been to the Philippines a few times, so I’m somewhat knowledgeable about the culture and how things work over there.

Are there players, whether American or international, that you look up to or pattern your game after?
I look up to Kathryn Plummer, a Stanford (alumni and current Saugella Team Monza) outside hitter, and Lexi Sun, a University of Nebraska outside hitter. They are both very consistent and are fun to watch due to their skills.

Any local Philippine players, whether in the collegiate scene or professional ranks, that you look forward to meet, train, or face on the court?
To be honest, I look forward to meeting everyone on the team and training with them.

How do you see yourself after five years? Playing professionally in the Philippine professional leagues or representing the Philippines internationally, perhaps?
I think it’s too early to say, as of right now, I just want to focus on my new opportunity that has been presented to me with DLSU.

*Images from instagram.com/jadefuentesvb

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