Admit it. Philippines is definitely a basketball nation. Whether you’re a sport fanatic or not, you can tell that Filipinos are crazy about this particular ball game. However, there’s also this one sport that is beginning to make noise and its popularity is skyrocketing especially in this new generation – VOLLEYBALL. Well, it’s not really something new in our eyes. Personally, I remember way back the early 2000 when a lot of Filipino fans were going gaga over international players like Leila Barros from Brazil, Francesca Piccinini, Maurizia Cacciatori from Italy and many more.

tan3Volleyball has certainly gained more popularity today. Thanks to the televised collegiate leagues such as the UAAP, NCCA , as well as the Shakey’s Vleague and Philippine Superliga which truly contributed big time to the sport’s recognition. It’s not only the sport itself but this too made us witness and appreciate the talents and skills of our local athletes who work so hard just to give honor to their respective alma mater, clubs and of course our nation.

Well, I am fortunate enough to interview one of these hard working volleyball players whom I believe (or most volleyball fans) is the best libero in Philippine volleyball, LIZLEE ANN GATA PANTONE.

Lizlee a.k.a  Tatan, who is a product of Adamson University is best known for her graceful and minimal moves yet still being able to dig those killer spikes. A volleyball analyst in the person of Mr. Ronnie Magsanoc once labeled her as a person who has the “ability to process information instantly”.  So for the volleyball fans out there who want to get to know more about Lizlee Ann Gata Pantone, here’s a little treat for all of you!

Me: At what age did you begin playing volleyball and what made you get into the sport?
Lizlee: “Elementary pa lang ako naglalaro na ako ng volleyball. Mga 11 years old siguro ako nung nag shift ako sa volleyball. Badminton kasi talaga yung unang sport na na-involve ako. Na-engganyo lang ako ng ate ko na maglaro kasi lagi ako sumasama sa kanya sa training nya ng volleyball.”

Me: How did your journey in the UAAP begin as an Adamson Lady Falcon?
Lizlee: “Nakapasok din ako sa Adamson dahil din sa Ate Maydy ko. Siya talaga yung may skills to play volleyball. Second lang ako sa kanya.hihihi. Mommy Dulce gave me the chance na magka-scholarship para makapag-aral. In return to that, nag-eensayo ako at tumutulong sa team in anyway I can.”

Me: What were the hardships you encountered as a student athlete?
Lizlee: “As a student-athlete, pinaka mahirap na siguro yung time management. Kasi di talaga maiwasan na mag-absent lalo na pag season ng UAAP. Tapos pagbalik mo sa classroom di ka na maka-sabay sa mga tinuturo dahil madami ng namissed out na lecture.”

Me: How did you get into the libero position?
Lizlee: “Before ako naging libero, naging spiker muna ako then pinag-train ako maging setter dahil ga-graduate na setter namin next season. Nagka-emergency, nawalan kami ng libero. May pinagpilian muna bago napag-pasyahan na ako na lang dahil wala ng choice hehehe.”

Me: After you graduated from college, you were out from the mainstream volleyball scene for a few years. How did you manage to get back on track successfully?
Lizlee: “Una siyempre disiplina sa sarili. As a player, alam ko kung anong kulang sakin kaya dun ako nagfofocus sa training. Tapos nakatulong din yung laging may liga, na-eexpose lagi sa mga games. Lalo na ang international exposure ko, yun siguro yung pinaka big factor kung bakit ako nakabalik sa dati kong laro.”

Me: Who are your volleyball idols both local and international?
Lizlee: “Sa local si Coach She ng Adamson. Sobrang bilib ako dun maglaro. International si Saori siguro kasi pwede siya sa lahat ng position.”

Me: Any sport you play aside from volleyball?
Lizlee: “Badminton and Candy Crush hihihi.”

Me: What can people expect more from Lizlee Gata in the upcoming years as a volleyball player?
Lizlee: “Watch out na lang para may excitement naman. hihihi. Pero kahit ako di ko alam basta ang alam ko is to work hard everyday.”

Me: What was your greatest achievement so far in all the years you played in volleyball?
Lizlee: “Siguro yung mag compete sa ibang bansa na dala mo yung flag ng Pilipinas. That’s what every athlete wants.”

Me: Any advice for the youngsters out there who look up to you and those who aspire to become a great volleyball player?
Lizlee: “I started with nothing. I was not a skilled volleyball player when I entered Adamson. Taga pulot lang ako ng bola nun pero nakuha sa sipag, tiyaga at disiplina, dun pa lang sa pag abang ng palo para pulutin.”

From her humble beginnings to where she is now, Tatan remains to keep her feet on the ground. With a best receiver and three best digger awards in the UAAP, Most Valuable Player in UAAP Beach Volleyball Season 72, two best receiver and six best digger awards in the Shakey’s Vleague and a best libero award in the Phippine Superliga, she just proves to be the legendary and queen libero of Philippine volleyball. Definitely can’t argue with that! 😉

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
– Philippians 4:13