A former promising track star found new venue to showcase her leaping ability
As they say, patience is a virtue.
And persistence is the basic thing that an athlete would be needing, specifically those wanting to recover from dreaded injuries like a serious damage to one’s Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL).
“Masyado kong inembrace na kaya ko yun, magaling ako, parang ang yabang ko sa sarili ko pero pagdating nung college wala akong naibigay,” Such was the case for La Salle volleyball star Desiree Cheng who admits the ACL injury she suffered entering her third season with the De La Salle Lady Spikers was one of the toughest challenges she ever faced.
“Wala akong idea sa volleyball nuon so yung first time ko nag-training, ang suot ko naka jog pants ako and then parang shirt na maluwag and running shoes.”
Cheng was part of the team’s roster when they won back-to-back crowns, the UAAP Seasons 76 and 77.
Cheng felt she was nearly a non-factor in those two title runs despite being touted as one of the best High School recruits of the her time.
“I nearly quit kasi when I was part of the team sa early part of my stint, feeling ko wala ako naitutulong tapos I suffered an ACL injury, mas lalo akong na-frustrate kasi of course, mas lalo akong walang maitutulong sa team,” said Cheng.
It helped Cheng a lot that La Salle had a hardworking and emphatic conditioning coach in Marlon Celis whose role was crucial when it comes to dealing with the lady spiker’s outlook towards a tedious rehabilitation process.
“It’s really more of psychological kasi nga imagine for eight months gagawin mo paulit-ulit, almost everyday strengthening, certain exercise na paulit-ulit,” said Celis “Andun ka sa loob, you would see the other players practicing, doing their usual routine tapos ikaw andon ka lang so medyo talagang parang aayaw ka na e.”
For a while, Cheng was on the brink that while the determination from within kept on pushing her to give her all, her mental fear, for the most part, got the better of her.
“Siyempre yung nagagawa mo nung wala kang injury is really far from what you’re doing now so ang advice ko sa kanya is she really have to do it gradually,” said Celis.
“For about three months, meron siyang fear eh. Of course hindi siya confident with the movement that I’m trying to teach her kasi nga meron pang psychological effect,” added Celis.
Volleyball is a sport Cheng was unfamiliar with during her childhood days.
In fact, the lanky Manila-born spiker was smitten with track and field early on in her life that she became a potential track star as a high jump specialist while studying at Hope Christian High School.
“Na-influence ako ng sister ko kasi siya talaga yung very athletic sa aming dalawa, parang naka-buntot lang ako na kung ano gagawin niya, yun din gagawin ko,” disclosed Cheng.
Everything started to change when one day, Hope volleyball coach Jerry Yee approached her and asked if she would be interested to play volleyball.
“Nakita ako ng coach namin sa Hope na matangkad ako so he asked kung pwedeng mag try akong mag volleyball and then dun na nag-start.”
Upon the prodding of her sister Djanel who also became a volleyball player with De La Salle-College of St. Benilde, Cheng gave the sport a try at age 10.
But the transition from being a trackster to a spiker was not easy for Cheng.
“I was so scared and knowing na wala akong idea sa volleyball so yung first time ko nag-training, ang suot ko like naka jog pants ako and then parang shirt na maluwag and then yung shoes ko is running shoes so no idea talaga ako,” said Cheng.
“So nung napunta ako sa volleyball parang sabi ko ‘uy ang sakit nung bola,’ Ganyan parang ang arte arte ko pa kasi bata pa ako nuon so pero nung na-try ko naman over the years. Yun, tuloy tuloy na din.”
Cheng gained the needed confidence that led to her being one of the top, if not the top player of Hope Christian High School which she led to several V-League Tournament of Champions crowns.
But that confidence in a lot of ways made her realize the need to be open to improvement especially when she accepted the opportunity to play for La Salle.
“I was hoping na kakayanin ko siya but I had this doubt in myself pagdating ko ng college. Parang lahat ng pinaghirapan ko nung High School just went down na I don’t know why,” said Cheng. “I don’t know kung paano ako aangat uli kasi masyado kong inembrace yung pagiging high school player na one of the ah pano ba sabihin, one of the top players.”
It didn’t help that after being part of La Salle for two years, Cheng suffered a terrifying ACL injury that sidelined her for quite some time.
“I had an ACL nung 2015, sobrang nagbago lahat in a way na I almost gave up volleyball career sabi ko nung first two years ko dito wala naman akong nagawa for my team tapos eto pa yung nangyari sa akin.”
Everything changed for Desiree who was in a way on the outside looking in while trying to recover from her ACL injury.
“In the long run nakita ko yung sarili ko outside sa bench kasi out ako ng isang season eh so nakita ko yung teammates ko na parang they were all enjoying every game, every training very motivated sila,” disclosed Cheng.
“I felt yun yung naging kulang ko, yung reason bakit may nag hold back na hindi ko mailabas yung potential ko. The injury was a blessing in disguise ni Lord na parang kailangan mo munang lumabas kasi feeling mo nasa taas ka na eh,” added Cheng.
The struggle was typical for Cheng when she made her return and there was also pressure on her part, noting that she was coming back at a time when the Lady Archers are coming off a title-winning Season 78 effort.
But middle of Season 79, Cheng was not only gaining stride but was slowly becoming a potent force for De La Salle, proof of it was the Lady Archers bagging their second straight crown and Cheng being named Finals Most Valuable Player.
“I want to be part of La Salle’s history since wala pa kasi naka-fourpeat so that in a way is already enough motivation for me and the team as well.”
“I just wanted the big trophy. Hindi ko inexpect yung Finals MVP because I was just focused on winning it all for La Salle,” said Cheng.
Cheng remained a compelling presence for La Salle where she became the league’s best server en route to them winning a third straight crown by conquering Season 80 of the UAAP.
This Season, Cheng assures she still has the needed motivation to make her final year a momentous one as she aims to be part of the first-ever fourpeat champion.
“I want to be part of La Salle’s history since wala pa kasi naka-fourpeat so that in a way is already enough motivation for me and the team as well,’ said Cheng.