THINGS don’t always go as planned, and that’s how Averille Sacapaño went from losing a spot on the women’s tennis team to becoming the valedictorian of the Class of 2024.

Averille initially tried out for the UST Female Tennisters in 2019 but was rejected due to the limited spots available, as there were few graduating players at the time.

The Covid-19 pandemic struck, and she secured a spot with the De La Salle University tennis team. However, before she could join the team, she received an unexpected call from a UST coach, inviting her to play for her dream school.

It was an opportunity she thought had slipped away, and the decision was easy: she chose UST and enrolled in the Institute of Physical Education and Athletics (IPEA).

However, things didn’t go as she had hoped.

Senior players on the team received most of the playing time, limiting Sacapaño’s opportunities to compete.

“Dream ko talaga ever since Grade 3 na makapaglaro sana sa UAAP, and very nalungkot ako na magfo-focus sa seniors muna namin,” Sacapaño told the Varsitarian. “It took a toll on me na hindi ako makapaglaro, and hindi ko napakita ‘yong best ko.

She started questioning herself. Should she have stayed with La Salle? Was she, a decorated athlete from Boracay who had excelled in national tournaments since childhood, not good enough for the UAAP? Did she still belong on the court?

Ang ganda ng performance ko sa province, nagto-tour ako and then pagdating dito, hindi ako nabigyan ng chance, although naiintindihan ko naman since nagkaroon ako ng court anxiety dahil medyo bumaba ‘yong kumpiyansa ko sa sarili ko,” she said.

Before long, she began skipping training, until she realized that perhaps collegiate tennis “was not really for me.”

She shifted her focus to her studies and proved to herself the champion she could be.

Sacapaño finished her academics with a general weighted average of 1.050, the highest in UST this year.

Ngayong fourth year, prinomise ko sa sarili ko na kahit anong mangyari – kahit hindi ako mag-number one – I just want to enjoy my last year dito sa college,” she said.

Yet, she persisted, which wasn’t surprising given her commitment to both her academics and tennis.

Sacapaño has been an honor student since elementary, setting high standards for herself.

Even then, Sacapaño was already a champion, reigning at the Philta-Palawan Pawnshop 12-and-under crown tournament and the Palarong Pambansa, among others.

Her father, a decorated athlete in multiple sports, first discovered her tennis talent when he came home with a racket and asked her to hold it.

Nagtayo ng tennis court ‘yong resort sa tabi ng house namin, na-invite papa ko maglaro and ako rin, nag-start ako maglaro,” she recalled. “Sabi ng coach, may potential daw ako, so I started joining tournaments sa province namin and nananalo ako.”

Looking back, Sacapaño said she would still eagerly embrace the chance to play tennis. However, she now finds peace in knowing that no one can deny her the title of being number one. Faith Nicole S. Gelacio with reports from Jenna Mariel A. Gonzales and Michelle Ann C. Kalaw


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