UAAP dream lives on for Dabawenya spiker

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Sunday, February 23, 2014


KNEE INJURIES didn't stop Elyanna Nenita "Pie" Milana Dayanghirang from living up to expectations as she helped the University of Sto. Tomas capture the juniors girls volleyball title of the 76th University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) recently.

The 17-year-old former Ateneo de Davao University standout said, "Despite of my knee injuries, I played as if I didn't have any. I secured the backline and even frontline defense that wherever the opponent places the ball, I can save it to transform into an attack."

Pie, the youngest among four children of Eliezer, a businessman, and Dr. Azucena, provincial health officer IV, was overjoyed by the experience of playing in the UAAP finals where UST overcame a 26-24, 22-25, 25-22, 25-22 win over the National University.

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"It was overwhelming! I'm proud because it was my first time to help the team enter the finals. Winning the UAAP volleyball championship was the best that I've ever experienced throughout my volleyball career since all the sweat, pain, sacrifices and hard work from the very first time I started playing this sport in the finally paid off," Pie said in an e-mailed interview with Sun.Star Davao.

The senior High School student joined the UST girls volleyball team as she was entering her sophomore year. UST coach Emilio Reyes Jr. recruited Pie after seeing her play in the National Shakey's Tournament in May 2009 in Tacloban City where UST was also part of the competing teams.

She was an open spiker when she first joined the team but was re-assigned to the libero position after being sidelined by knee injuries on the same year.

She, however, still wants to better her performance, aiming to win a UAAP individual award as best libero or best digger in future editions of the country's prestigious universities athletic meet.

Pie started playing volleyball at age four but she joined the Ateneo team in her fourth grade yet.

"I didn’t really like volleyball before because my sport was basketball, which is also the sport of my father. Ateneo's volleyball coach back then, Mrs. Lorelei Samela, saw me playing basketball during the Intramurals in third grade so she asked me to join the team and I'm glad I did. I enjoyed volleyball since then," she said.

Pie's mother didn't allow her to join the volleyball try-outs as she wanted her to just focus on her studies. But with an instant connection with the sport, Pie still joined the try-outs without her mom knowing it.

In fourth grade, she played in the 2007 Davao Association of Colleges and Schools (Dacs) Meet representing Ateneo and helped the team win its fifth straight title.

She also competed in the Davao Region Athletic Association (Davraa) Meet but Davao City only settled for silver. Pie though was selected to form part of the Palarong Pambansa-bound Davraa team in 2008.

She was part of Ateneo's champion team in Dacs Meet 2007 and 2008, DCAA 2007 and 2008, Mindanao Children’s Game 2008, Milo Best Tournament 2008 and Davao City's champin team in the Davraa Meet 2008 and Metro Sports League 2013.

Pie had steered Ateneo to numerous campaigns, winning most valuable player (MVP) awards in some of them.

She shared, "It’s really challenging to manage my time – balancing academics and sports because it takes a lot of maturity and parental guidance. However, it helped me grow and become a better student-athlete, daughter and a sister because I can always bring the values I’ve learned from volleyball everywhere."

She is most thankful to her family who inspires her to give her best in her studies and in her sport.

"I may have done wrong decisions in life but they never left me. They were always there to pick me up when I was broken and helped me stand up again. They are my strength when I was weak. Before finally starting UAAP Season 76, I told myself that I’ll help the team win this tournament just so I could bring back the honor and glory to my family, my teachers, my school and especially to my God," she added.

Pie dreams of becoming a successful lawyer and businesswoman but she also hopes to make it into the national team and represent the country in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games or in the Olympics.

Living by a famous Walt Disney quote, "All our dreams will come true, if we have the courage to pursue them”, Pie sure knows what she wants - giving the best of herself to fulfill her dreams and make her loved-ones proud.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 23, 2014.

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