The UP Lady Fighting Maroons have closed the chapter of UAAP 81, ending the tournament at fifth place. It may not have been the end they wanted, but for two of its graduating veterans, they wouldn’t change a thing.
It was a bitter-sweet ending for Marian Buitre and Ayel Estrañero. After winning two prestigious off-season championships, UP fell short of bagging a semi-finals seat this UAAP season. But the two veterans have no regrets. Both end their colorful five-year collegiate career with great memories and even greater life lessons.
“Of course, most of us prefer a win on our last game. The results of this season might not be what we expected for our team, but it was definitely not a bad collegiate career for the both of us,” Estrañero shared after their last UAAP game on April 27.
Marian and Ayel both started their UAAP journey with the UP Women’s Volleyball Team in 2014. Through their five years with the squad, they have gone through many ups and downs — from making it to the Final Four in Season 77, to coaching changes, breaking UP’s championship drought, and then failing to replicate the success this season.
“Personally, I know that I grew as a person, not only inside the court but also outside because of volleyball and because of UAAP. There’s a lot of things you’re able to learn just by playing,” the setter from Bacolod City added.
Buitre echoed the same sentiments. While she admits that it was a bumpy past five years, she’s proud of what she has achieved and who she has become, and she’s made sure to share these lessons with the rookies of UP.
“I always tell the rookies, even if you don’t get the results you dreamt of, what matters most is if the journey made you a better person and if you’re proud of what you’ve become.
“I’m proud of how Ayel and I have grown to be mature players through this experience,” the Landscape Architecture student explained.
Leaving a legacy
In all of her five years, Estrañero has played all positions for UP — she has suited up as a libero, an attacker, and then ending her career as one of the best setters to wear the Maroon and Green. Her versatility has many calling her “Do-It-All Ayel.”
She admits that the journey has never been easy. “It’s made to be hard,” she noted. But she credits her strong support system for helping her survive the hard iska-atleta life.
“We won’t be the players we are right now if not for the help of all the people we’ve worked with and have met along the way. I have nothing but gratitude for them.”
For Buitre, it’s her contagious flair and her radiating passion for the game that will be missed most. Pouring her all on the court and wearing her heart on her sleeve, this never-say-die attitude has translated to Marian’s powerful performance every game. No wonder her fans call her “Queen Vulture.”
Leaving UPWVT behind, she wants the team to continue giving their 100% at training and in games.
“I hope they never get tired of always choosing to fight hard, kasi it’s the path that they’ve chosen so might as well do it whole heartedly,” the 22-year-old noted.
What’s next for Ali and Ayel?
Volleyball doesn’t end in the UAAP for the two seniors. Turning the page on their college careers, Buitre and Estrañero are moving forward to next-level volleyball with the Premier Volleyball League and Philippine Super Liga.
Buitre will be suiting up for the Foton Tornadoes in the upcoming Philippine Super Liga All-Filipino Conference. She will be joined by UPWVT teammate Justine Dorog and standouts Dindin Santiago-Manabat and Jaja Santiago.
Estrañero, on the other hand, will be joining the new Motolite franchise in the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference. She will be playing alongside familiar faces Isa Molde, Tots Carlos and Marist Layug.
You can catch both UP Lady Fighting Maroon standouts as the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference kicks-off on May 26 and will be aired live on ABS-CBN S+A; the Philippine Super Liga All-Filipino Conference will open in June.