Only good memories for Grethcel Soltones
The match was slipping out of the San Sebastian College Lady Stags’ hands. They had seen their hard-earned thrice-to-beat incentive dissipate in the Finals against the Arellano University Chiefs.
The Lady Stags’ season was in jeopardy. The Lady Chiefs held a 16-10 lead in the fourth set of Game Three. But, like years before, the Lady Stags were not out of the match just yet — not if Grethcel Soltones had anything to say about it.
It was her final shot at winning an NCAA title – the only thing she had not won in her young yet decorated career. Soltones plugged away, scoring three straight points before the Lady Chiefs scored three straight again.
Soltones rotated to the back row but she still asked for the ball. Facing a triple block from three Lady Chiefs 5-foot-10 and above, Soltones tried to go over the blockers but her shot careened to long.
Championship point Arellano.
Lady Chiefs setter Rhea Ramirez then served a beautiful short ball which Alyssa Eroa barely passed. Lady Stags setter Vira Guillema then tossed a pipe set to Soltones. Facing a triple block again, Soltones chose to bang it off Arellano middle blocker Mary Anne’ Esguerra’s hands.
The ball rolled along the tape of the net, falling gracefully into the sidelines. The Lady Chiefs were champs again.
This meant that in her five-year stay at San Sebastian, Soltones was a three-time MVP but a zero-time champion.
Instead of bitter tears, Soltones bore a wide smile.
“Hindi pa kayo tapos. May next year pa kayo. Makakabalik kayo dito,” San Sebastian’s Iron Lady said in a huddle before she gracefully wore their silver medals.
Not winning a championship did not damped the spirits of the ever-sunny Soltones.
“Marami nangyare sa akin na mas masaklap. Ito, championship lang ‘to – volleyball lang ‘to. Okay lang ako kasi, hindi naman sa pagiging bitter, kung kumpleto lanh kami siguro matatalo namin sila. Pero deserve talaga ng Arellano ‘to. Lumabas ‘yung composure nila,” the native of Catmon, Cebu told Tiebreaker Times.
“Kasi bakit ako iiyak? Natalo na nga kami, iiyak pa ako? For me, I tried my best, we tried our best, but we didn’t make it. Wala naman siguro kaming dapat hingiin pa sa mga sarili namin other than our best.”
Soltones is a generational talent with cannons for arms and catlike reflexes. Her teammates, however, have never been at her level, talent-wise. Soltones acknowledges that volleyball is a team sport and it was on her to bring her team to the same level.
“Ayoko sabihin na hindi magaling teammates ko kasi hindi ko naman siguro magagawa ‘yung mga dapat kong gawin kundi dahil sa kanila.
“Siguro ‘yung teammates ko bata pa lang – hindi din naman ako matured na player – kulang lang talaga sila sa sinasabi ni coach na tapang at willingness magstep-up. ‘Yun ‘yung dapat nilang i-improve. Na-expose na ako ni coach sa mga ganyang dikdikan, ‘yun lang din siguro kulang sa kanila,” the 22-year old winger added.
Soltones is now looking to end her career with a title — an NCAA beach volley trophy which she can win for the third straight year.
After that, she wants to keep playing for her on-court father Roger Gorayeb.
“Beach volleyball, and I’m going to get it,” Soltones insisted.
“Siyempre stick din ako kay coach Roger. Tignan natin kung may ibang opportunity pero hindi ko pa alam kung saan talaga. May ibang kumukuha pero wala hindi pa ako nagye-yes. Pero kung saan si coach Roger, doon ako. Hindi ko na papakawalan yan. Tatay ko na yan. Kung saan man siya pumunta, gusto ko sumama sa kanya.”
Although Soltones becomes one of the first Lady Stags to graduate without an indoor title, she’s happy to keep playing with Gorayeb.
“Mahal na mahal ko ‘yan si coach,” Soltones said as she waived out of the arena for the last time as a Lady Stag.