Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Grethcel Soltones draws from nat’l team stint to lead the Lady Stags’ NCAA Volleyball season

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Grethcel Soltones draws from nat’l team stint to lead the Lady Stags’ NCAA Volleyball season
by rick olivares pic from grethcel's facebook

Grethcel Soltones is smiling. 

That isn’t only because her San Sebastian Lady Stags are atop the NCAA Women’s Volleyball standings with a 7-0 slate following their three-set win over Letran. Being unbeaten doesn’t mean anything. The teams right behind them — the Arellano Lady Chiefs (6-1) and the College of Saint Benilde Lady Blazers (6-1) — are talented, tall, and deep. Going to the Finals last year and losing to Arellano hurt. But Soltones’ the Lady Stags’ fourth year outside hitter thinks that the 12 months since then have made her and her teammates wiser and better. 

If Soltones’ smile is even wider this season, it is because of her experiences in the past 12 months. She represented the country in a beach volleyball event in Thailand and she was part of the national team that competed in the Southeast Asian Games. Both occasions were coincidentally her first two times out of the country. And most recently she was a part of the PLDT Home Ultera Ultra Fast Hitters that won the championship of the Shakey’s V-League Reinforced Conference. 

“I’m from Cebu. My dreams were simple. Go to school and get a job,” she explains in the vernacular. “And to help my father. I never thought I’d step foot on another country. It was just a dream I have growing up. After all, I have such a small world. Now the national team — that was quite an experience. It is a highly memorable experience to represent the country. Of course, it would be nice to come home and win a medal but this is a learning curve for all of us. We’ll be back."

Soltones says that she learned three things from her national stint (aside from being coached by her San Sebastian mentor Roger Gorayeb and Ateneo’s Anusorn Bundit who has led them to two consecutive UAAP titles). 

“The first is being happy,” she enthuses. “It sounds like such a simple thing this ‘happy happy.’ On the contrary, it does help. It allows you to play with less tension. This year, maybe because I am happier on court, people call me ‘the Dancing Queen.’ But that doesn’t mean that I play irresponsibly. It’s also learning when to also be serious about what we do."

“You hear about to placing limits on your capability all the time,” Soltones says by way of introduction to her second point. “Coach Roger always reminds me of that. It was reinforced by Coach Tai (Bundit). It’s easy to get star-struck playing alongside the best players in the country. The coaches would tell me that there is a reason that I am here because I had earned it.” 

Soltones was named the NCAA Season 90 Most Valuable Player and Best Scorer. However, they were swept in the Finals by Arellano. 

That point led to the third learning — focus. “You hear that all the time from coaches and teammates. For example in the Women’s Under-23 games and the Southeast Asian Games, we were up against taller teams. You know us Filipinos; we aren’t particularly tall. That doesn’t mean we should just give them the win. Going up against the taller teams, you think a lot more. You learn where to place the ball better. When you do so on a consistent basis, you raise the level of your game."

After also having not won in the NCAA the past three seasons, the San Sebastian Lady Stags want it more this year. “Being unbeaten so far doesn’t mean we’re going to win it. The goal is to get one of the top two seeds. We might not be the best yet because other teams like Benilde or Arellano are taller than us,” she points out. “But we’re a little better than last year.” 

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