Mary Joy Baron’s play a key to La Salle’s success
MANILA, Philippines – The improved play this season of middle hitter Mary Joy Baron has been key during the DLSU Lady Spikers’ current 9-2 campaign in the UAAP Season 78 women’s volleyball tournament.
After spending the first two years of her collegiate career playing more of a complementary role to senior teammates, the 5-foot-11 Baron has come front and center in 2016, where she’s established herself as one of the best volleyball players in the UAAP as La Salle leads the pack with Ateneo atop the league standings.
At the end of the first round, Baron topped the entire league in blocking with an average of 1.04 by set and a total of 24 block scores. Her play hasn’t regressed since. The Lady Spikers, after dropping their game to UST, have won 4 straight during that span.
If anyone’s delighted at the rise of the Baguio City National High School standout, it’s her veteran teammate and mentor, Mika Reyes.
“Syempre proud na rin talaga ako na alam ko may isa akong pwedeng… siguro mas makakatulong pa sa team na ngayon na graduating na ako, and I know na paalis na ako, may mag fi-fill in na spot na yun.”
(Of course, I’m proud that I know there’s someone who can help the team since I’m graduating after this year. Someone to fill the spot.)
Reyes is playing in her fifth year with the Lady Spikers, and under UAAP rules, a student-athlete is allowed to be eligible only for that long. Just a few years ago, it was Reyes who was considered one of La Salle’s rising stars; one of those set to take over after the likes of Cha Cruz, Michele Gumabao, and Aby Marano left.
Now it’s Reyes who’s set to pass the torch in a few weeks’ time.
“Of course,” Reyes said, when asked if she expected this kind of improvement from Baron after first seeing her potential during training, even if it didn’t take place off the bat.
“Kasi nung first year niya hindi siya na line up. After that year, I saw her eagerness na gusto niya makatulong sa team, na mag improve siya, and sobrang proud kami ngayon na nararating niya.
(In her first year, she wasn’t lined up. After that, I saw her eagerness that she wanted to help the team, to improve, and we’re very proud of how far she’s come.)
“Parang nakikita namin na ito yung gusto ni Joy. Sobrang proud kami na pinaghirapan niya talaga yun.”
(We can see this is what Joy wants. We’re so proud because she’s worked really hard for it.)
The dedication to hard work has helped Baron earn the trust of her teammates along with playing time. It’s also the reason why she’s now seeing the fruits of her labor during games, much to the dismay of DLSU’s adversaries.
When La Salle swept Ateneo in 3 sets last month and ended the Lady Eagles’ 24-game winning streak, Baron scored 10 points and provided net defense that gave the defending champions fits.
“Hard work lang sa past months na offseason kami,” Baron told Rappler about the secret to her recent success.
Syempre, ako na yung [isa sa] natira na senior na din na middle spiker. And, ayun, mas winork ko yung kailangan nang team, especially yung blocking and yung spiking.”
(Of course, I’m one of the remaining senior middle spikers. I just worked more on what my team needed, especially blocking and spiking.)
Baron is already in her fourth year as a La Salle student, but because she sat during her freshman year, she has only played 3 years in the UAAP and is still eligible for two more. That means there’s even more time to improve and get better.
“Makukuha mo yan eh, once na exposed ka (to playing time). Nanduon na yung confidence. Kapag nawala yun, yun yung magiging downfall. So trini-try ko i-keep yung confidence na meron ako ngayon hangang matapos yung season na ‘to,” she said.
(You’re going to get that once you’re exposed to playing time. That’s where the confidence is. Once that’s gone, that’s going to be your downfall. So I try to keep my confidence up until the season ends.)
Outside of a 4-set blunder to NU and the 3-set sweep at the hands of UST in the first round, La Salle has been close to perfect this UAAP season. The Lady Spikers are now 6-0 in their last 6 sets after dropping the first set in a recent game against UP, which they won.
Ironically, La Salle’s two losses already match their total from the elimination round last UAAP Season (12-2), but the team arguably looks better and more confident. There’s a few reasons why, mainly that the rest of the league has improved (except for UE). Even Ateneo, which went a perfect 16-0 last year, already has two defeats as well.
“Sobrang iba [this season] compared to last year,” said Reyes. “Last season was really different. Hindi talaga siya yung season for us. Parang hindi talaga eh.
(This season is really different compared to last season. Last year was really different. It really wasn’t the season for us. It really didn’t seem like it.)
Reyes has many arguments to believe that, and didn’t shy away from saying this year’s Lady Spikers are better than last season’s before they ran the Lady Eagles out of Araneta Coliseum.
Even she looks improved from last year, and so does Kim Fajardo who led the UAAP in setting after the first round. Ara Galang looks on pace to fully return from her ACL and MCL tears. The improved play of the rising talents such as Baron provides an extra spark as DLSU aims to halt a two-year absence away from the UAAP championship.
“Syempre, senior ko yan,” Baron said about modelling her game after Reyes’. “So lahat nang nakikita ko sakanya, trini-try kong gayahin, or na pa-pass on din saakin yung mga skills and confidence na nakikita ko sakanya.”
(Of course, that’s my senior. So everything I see her do, I try to copy, or the skills and confidence I see her display pass on to me.)
There’s even something more critical than Baron’s willingness to observe Reyes - open communication.
“Kung gaano siya kagaling as a player, nakukuha ko din yun dahil magkasama kami, and... parang we learn with each other na din. Kung may nakikita akong kulang sakanya, sinasabihan ko siya. Kung may nakikita siyang kulang saakin, sinasabihan niya ako.”
(However good she is as a player, I learn from her because we spend time together, and, it’s like we learn from each other as well. When I see something she’s lacking, I tell her. When she sees something lacking in me, she tells me.)
La Salle returns to action on Saturday, April 2, against the winless Lady Warriors. – Rappler.com