MVP #8: UP Med Aces (Women’s Team)

Yesterday, we featured the UP Med Aces men’s volleyball team. Of course, the UP Med Aces wouldn’t be complete without the women’s team, who bagged second runner-up in Palarong Medisina 2018! Led this year by Zora de la Peña (Class 2021) and Kathy Bersola (Class 2022), the team is definitely aiming higher.

No strangers to the limelight and the podium, the captains are ready to take the team to the championship this year. Both have had years of experience, and having local volleyball superstar (and professional league player!) Kathy Bersola help with training is surely an appreciated bonus for the team. With her and Zora’s leadership, it looks to be an exciting year for the team! It is an honor that both captains took the time to answer our questions and share details about their personal history with volleyball.

The UP Med Aces women’s team pose for a photo after a recent training session. Photo courtesy of Rona Clarisse Canlas (Class 2024).


UP MEDICS: How would you describe your team’s performance in the last Palarong Medisina?

Zora: Last year’s Palarong Medisina was full of regrets. Looking at our opponents then as opposed to our own UPCM WVT last year, we knew we could bag at the very least second place. However, due to the lack of experience, training time, and bonding time within the team, we all sort of choked and had a difficult time adjusting to the numerous games. It was really regrettable that we could’ve easily gotten a higher place, seeing as how talented and dedicated the members are. However, seeing the team place second runner-up also made me feel hopeful with the upcoming Palarong Medisina. It just means that we just lacked time to hone our skills; and hopefully, with our training adjustments this year, we’ll be able to bag the championship.

Kathy: Last year, we landed a podium finish in Palarong Med. I think it’s been a while since the last time the team got a medal in the said competition (di ako sure haha team history? I don’t know her… we’re making our own history HAHAHA AWOW). We also clinched the Bakbakan championship last year. I think it was a pretty successful run for us last year, in spite of minimal trainings and conditioning. We were aiming for the championship, but we fell short. Konting push na lang sana eh, pero it’s all good! I’m really proud of our performance last year, but I’m sure this year will be so much better.

UP MEDICS: Has your team participated in other events or competitions outside Palarong Medisina and Bakbakan? If yes, what? If no, do you plan to change that?

Zora: Aside from joining Himedsikan and having tune-up games with other schools, our team has not joined any other outside competitions. It would be difficult, considering we’re all medical students with different extra-curriculars, but joining a competition after Palarong Medisina isn’t out of the question. We’re still in discussion regarding it, but we’re very open to joining other competitions.

Kathy: Not really, just Himed (hiwa-hiwalay kami ng teams lol) and some tune-up games with other schools and colleges. Yes, sana. Everyone wants to play more because we all enjoy the game and we want to get better, pero ang hirap mag-sched, sobra. Kahit mga one-day league sa weekends, sana makalaro kami.

UP MEDICS: What do you think are your team’s strengths?

Zora: Definitely our team’s ability to see the fun in playing. Whenever you see our team during practices or trainings, there would always be jokes and laughs filling the court. Jokes or banats get thrown around here and there during our usual three-hour trainings, but we also know when it is time to take the training seriously. I think it’s also because we all have one common goal during our trainings – that we improve our skills individually, and as a result, improve the team’s dynamics within the court.

Kathy: I think one of our strengths is that everyone in the team knows their role and is willing to live up to these roles well. Also, we have a lot of fun inside the court and we all have one goal in mind. I also admire everyone’s adherence to adjustments and how everyone tries their best to listen and apply the things I teach them as our playing coach (haha). I’ve seen so much improvement from our players, swear. Not taking credit, but I’m glad to have been of help to the team training-wise.

UP MEDICS: What do you think are your team’s weaknesses or areas that need most improvement?

Zora: With the inclusion of four new LU2 and LU3 girls, I would say we definitely lack in the experience department. Of course, no question, we heavily rely on our team’s ace, Kathy Bersola – but a team cannot function if only one of us does everything in the court, and we keep on relying on her until she tires out. Team sports just don’t work like that. To do our part, as said earlier, we continue to do our best in our trainings to hopefully attain our individual maximum potential, and show everyone that this team is more than just “Bersola & others.” Seeing as how our trainings have been going well, I think we have come a long way, and we’re just excited to show the new and improved UPCM WVT this year.

Kathy: Our weakness? Attendance. Char! HAHAHA it’s been really difficult to get complete attendance in our trainings, but it’s acceptable naman talaga, knowing that we’re all very busy med students. Kahit ako, I’m rarely around. Also, I think we need to work more on our communication and confidence. ‘Yon na lang.

UP MEDICS: Does UP Med Aces have regular training sessions? If yes, how often, and what strategies do you use during training? If no, do you plan on changing that? How do you think this affects your team?

Zora: We’ve been having at least twice-a-week trainings – one day for conditioning, and another day for court drills. We’ve been training with the UPCM men’s volleyball team, which I think is beneficial for us all since we both have similar training goals and strategies. In one court drills training day, we usually focus on one or two skills we want to practice on, while during conditioning trainings, we focus on core, strength, and plyometric training. Additionally, every other week, we try to look for other school’s teams to have tune-up games to work on our team dynamics. It’s the first year we started a training program like this, and I think it definitely helped the team build our skills, and have more confidence in ourselves. Of course, trainings wouldn’t be complete without some post-training lamon!

Kathy: See Zora’s answer. HAHA. We try to see each other at least once a week. But with [Palarong Medisina] drawing nearer, we’re trying to make it more frequent. When I’m around, I’m usually the one leading and coaching trainings and conditioning. But, when I’m not, I try to give training programs to Zora and Henzor. We focus a lot on our defense during training.

Kathy Bersola (Class 2022) in good form and ready to spike the ball. Photo taken at Palarong Medisina 2018, courtesy of Markyn Jared Kho (Class 2020).

UP MEDICS: How long have you been playing volleyball? What made you start playing volleyball?

Zora: I’ve been playing volleyball for 10 years now, since I was in second year high school. To be honest, I hated playing it at first because I couldn’t understand how to play well, and it just frustrated me how much I sucked then. However, one of my teachers in high school pushed me to pursue this sport because I was pretty tall back then. Through daily trainings, I slowly found the fun in playing, and getting to know my teammates.

Kathy: I’ve been playing since 2nd grade, I think? But just for fun lang at home and in PE classes, never had formal training until I got to college in UPD. My mom used to play and my sister played for her high school team then (same school as me in elementary) and me being young and impressionable, I wanted to be able to do everything that my Mom and Sister did. So I started playing lang at home with her. Until I became addicted… and the rest is history haha

UP MEDICS: How long have you been part of UP Med Aces? Why did you decide to join?

Zora: I’ve been part of this family since my first year here back in LU3. I was invited by one of my classmates, and after halting my volleyball activities in college, I thought I wouldn’t like playing again. It’s been a really fun three years with this team!

Kathy: This is my 2nd year with the team. I think everyone else decided for me. Joke hahaha pero yeah, I knew it was expected of me and of course I wanted to give back to UP. And sabi ko rin sa sarili ko, ‘di ko nakuhaan ng championship ang UP nung college, susubukan ko ulit ngayong med! Wanted to share my passion and knowledge with the team din, that’s why I really wanted to coach and play. I saw it as a challenge talaga for me personally… to grow more as a player.

UP MEDICS: How do you think being part of UP Med Aces has affected your life?

Zora: I think joining this team made me see us medical students in a different light. Within the campus, I got used to seeing UPCM students in their white uniforms, charting patients or doing procs. It was really refreshing seeing my teammates in the court, pouring their heart out in every play, and we were all able to share our common interests. It made me see life outside the academics-centered UPCM.

Kathy: More good friends in med! Haha! Siyempre with the coaching part, sobrang nae-enjoy ko siya. I really love teaching and playing and with the Med Aces, I get to do both and learn so much more about myself and my teammates along the way. I took on different roles for this team and I’m really glad I did. I feel like joining has really helped me as a volleyball player.

UP MEDICS: Why did you decide to be Captain? How does being captain differ from the other members of the team? (Does it entail additional tasks/responsibilities or an entirely different role?)

Zora: Honestly, I’m really not the team captain material! My friends know I’m the shy and quiet type, and that doesn’t translate well since I think everyone expects captains to be full of energy, and loud inside the court. I guess I accepted the captainship because I wanted to prove that somehow, even though I don’t conform to that stereotypical captain, I would still be able to find my own unique way of leading my team. Being a captain entails a lot of responsibility and some may think a heavy burden. Although it might be true, since I handle most of the paperwork and other technical work, I find that after finishing my job, I feel fulfilled and content that I was able to serve my team well. Additionally, I think being a captain requires me to be more optimistic than usual. The team looks up to their ates and their performance mirrors what I am doing or feeling – therefore, I try to make it a point to be the best version of myself within and outside the court. Moreover, I enjoy doing work, whether it be paperwork or other types of work related to volleyball.

Kathy: I’m game captain, I can’t do the other technical stuff HAHAHA hi zora sorry zora Well, medyo automatic na rin kasi siya, since nga I coach the team din, I make all the game plans and teach them to everyone, even during games. Pwede na rin siguro kasi I’m the loudest, most talkative inside the court, and the most confident and comfortable in playing? It’s different because you know your teammates look up to you and rely on you, ‘di ka pwede magkalat, ‘di ka pwede maging down, ‘di ka pwede maubusan ng energy. Ikaw kinakapitan ng team and you can’t let them down.

Zora de la Peña with a spike! Photo taken at Palarong Medisina 2018, courtesy of Aljohn Gonzales (Class 2019).

UP MEDICS: What position do you play? How do you think this influences your role as Captain?

Zora: I play the middle blocker in our rotation right now. Although I lack the height to be as competent as my diagonal, Kathy, I think I fill in the hole within the team pretty well. I don’t think our position influences that much with my captainship – every one influences each one equally.

Kathy: I play all-around/middle blocker. Hmm, maybe it gives me more opportunities lang to score and give my best to the team? ‘Yon lang naman. Wala naman effect masyado ‘yong playing position sa pagiging captain.

UP MEDICS: Aside from UP Med Aces, are you part of any other team (sports team, choir, etc.) for the college or outside of it? What other sports/activities do you spend your time on?

Kathy: I also play for the women’s basketball team. I play outside din with my pro team. I like playing most sports and other activities include music and movie/series things? Hahaha dami ko gusto gawin lagi eh I’m also part of the Mu Sigma Phi Sorority, RSO, and PAGSAMA.

UP MEDICS: How do you balance being Captain and being a medical student?

Zora: It’s a lot of responsibility and pressure to perform my best as a captain, but balancing it with being a medical student isn’t as hard as it sounds. First and foremost, I tell myself that I am a student first before being an athlete – hence the term “student athlete,” not “athlete student.” It’s just a matter of time management and knowing what to prioritize first that helps ease the workload of being a captain and a student.

Kathy: Haha sanay na with everything regarding balancing the student-athlete life since college. Extra sipag, time management, efficient work ethic, and less tulog. HAHAHA jk

UP MEDICS: What can you say about the bias towards women’s volleyball in the various leagues in the Philippines (UAAP/PSL/PVL)? Do you think men’s volleyball teams (even in the same leagues) deserve more support than what they currently get?

Kathy: Sport is a gendered activity, as dictated by society. That’s what we grew up knowing. But, yes. I love watching men’s volleyball and I really admire the way they play. Sobrang intense and they’re all really strong. I truly believe that men’s volleyball deserves the same spotlight as women’s and that with the right support and programs, we could have a really strong men’s national team!!!! Excited na nga ako for this team to be built this year.

UP MEDICS: Free space!!! Anything else you want to say, shoutout/s, quotes of your choosing, etc.


SO SO PROUD OF THESE GIRLS 💕 Support us in this year’s Palarong Medisina 2019!!!!!

Kathy: Hi! Support the UP Med Aces in the upcoming Palarong Med! We’re really excited and we worked hard for this. UP FIGHT!!!!


The UP Med Aces women’s team and their coach at last year’s Palarong Medisina. Photo courtesy of Markyn Jared Kho (Class 2020).

It really seems that the team is going for gold at this year’s Palarong Medisina! We’re excited to see how the changes to their training system this year will affect their performance, and we’re hoping to see their improvement! Let’s #ShowOurSupport for the UP Med Aces as they represent us this coming Palarong Medisina 2019 and Bakbakan: Trese!

Photos courtesy of Markyn Jared Kho (Class 2020), Aljohn Gonzales (Class 2019), and Rona Clarisse Canlas (Class 2024). Many many thanks to Zora de la Peña (Class 2021) and Kathy Bersola (Class 2022) for taking the time to answer our questions!

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