MANILA, Philippines -- Ateneo de Manila University star Kat Tolentino was hit hard by the cancellation of the UAAP Season 82 events, although the development did not come as a surprise for her.
The UAAP decided on Tuesday to cancel the rest of Season 82, after the enhanced community quarantine in the country was extended until April 30 to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Tolentino, who is currently in Canada, said she was "expecting" the cancellation given the seriousness of the pandemic, not just in the Philippines but worldwide.
"I understand safety first, and that it was a tough decision to make, but it is for the better of the whole country," Tolentino said, through her management Virtual Playground. "It's sad and frustrating, especially with all the hard work and preparation that all the athletes put into the UAAP."
"But we have to remember that we are dealing with tragedies much bigger than volleyball or sports," she added.
What makes the cancellation all the more disappointing for Tolentino is that it deprives the Lady Eagles of the opportunity to defend their women's volleyball crown.
Ateneo played just two games -- beating University of the Philippines then losing to De La Salle University -- before the season was halted, and eventually terminated altogether.
"The reason why I came back was because I wanted to defend the title with this group of girls," said Tolentino, who was limited to six points in a four-set loss to La Salle last March 7.
"Losing the opportunity is, of course, disappointing," she added. "This team had so much potential and expectations going into the season, but I guess it just wasn't the right time."
Tolentino initially decided to forego her final year of eligibility after helping the Lady Eagles win the crown in Season 81, but had a change of heart and eventually decided to return. She was expected to provide the veteran leadership for Ateneo, along with Jho Maraguinot and Jamie Lavitoria who also decided to come back for Season 82.
While their UAAP campaign lasted just two games, Tolentino is treasuring the memories she made with the team in the lead-up to the season.
"I love and really miss the team," she said. "The months I was able to train with them was a blessing, because there were so many memories within that short span of time."
"We are all part of each other's daily routine, and Coach O (Oliver Almadro) created a culture with the Ateneo team where we aren't just a team, but also family," she added.
Season 82 was meant to be Tolentino's swan song in the UAAP, but after all that has happened, she isn't so quick to dismiss a possible return. After all, the league has yet to make any announcements regarding the eligibility status of athletes who were playing in their last season.
Current rules state that athletes have to be under 25 years old by July 31 to be eligible for the season. Tolentino turned 25 last January 27.
"If there's anything I learned from last year, it's that you can never make a decision right away," said Tolentino.
"There's a lot of factors that come into play, and you never know with the situation we are in. It's hard to predict what will happen for next year, since we are still dealing with the pandemic and other global issues," she added.
"For now, I am just praying that we overcome this, and continue to keep healthy and safe always."
If it is the end of her UAAP career, Tolentino simply hopes that she leaves a lasting impact on the Ateneo women's volleyball program.
It had been a long road for the Filipino-Canadian standout who endured several injuries before finally coming into her own in Season 81, when she emerged as Ateneo's leading scorer and the league's Best Opposite Spiker.
"To be persistent, work hard, and always be patient in whatever you do," Tolentino said of the legacy she hoped to leave in Ateneo.
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