MANILA, Philippines—Ateneo head coach Oliver Almadro's prayers were answered on Thursday, when Kat Tolentino announced her decision to return for her final season of eligibility with the Lady Eagles.
Tolentino had "signed off" from the UAAP after the Lady Eagles won the Season 81 crown last May, but made an about-face six months later baring her intentions to play for one final season.
"I thank Kat first for her decision," said Almadro in a message to ABS-CBN News. "I know it's not an easy decision for her to come back and sacrifice again."
"And I thank God also, for the answered prayer and for the discernment of Kat," he added.
Back in May, Almadro had expressed his hope that Tolentino will still change his mind, though he also wanted to give the player time and space to consider her decision.
"We will keep on praying that she will have the right discernment to help the team," said Almadro at the time. "And I'm sure she will be guided by the Lord to have the right direction."
Almadro believes that one reason for Tolentino's return is that the towering spiker wants to "give back to Ateneo."
"She knows the team still needs her, and she wants to help them again to do more and achieve more," the coach said. "The team and the Ateneo community are so happy for this."
"Now, we have to pray hard and work harder for that dream, why Kat really returned," he added.
Tolentino, meanwhile, said the overwhelmingly positive response to her announcement has only motivated her further. She expects to take on a bigger leadership role in Season 82, as both Maddie Madayag and Bea de Leon have exhausted their playing years.
"I definitely look forward to it, because this time, I'll be the older one, leading a bunch of younger girls," said Tolentino. "It will be exciting."
As early as now, Ateneo fans are already anticipating Tolentino's partnership with rookie Faith Nisperos, who emerged as the Lady Eagles' No. 1 option during the PVL Collegiate Conference.
While Tolentino has yet to train with them, she is well aware of the talent in their team.
"I was very impressed with the character they showed in that league," said Tolentino. "I look forward to playing with them next year."
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.