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Fresh start beckons ‘Mama D’

Hampered by injury for most of last season, Dindin Manabat hopes to bounce back big time this year with her new club, Akari, when the Premier Volleyball League All-Filipino Conference opens shop next month.

Manabat battled a left ankle injury since the previous Invitational Conference that forced her to miss games for former team, Chery Tiggo. She then saw limited minutes in the Reinforced Conference.

After parting ways with the Crossovers after six seasons and signing a deal with the Chargers early this month, the veteran winger is looking forward to a fresh start and a better outing for the up-and-coming club raring to make its mark in the country’s first and only women’s professional volleyball league set to begin its third season on 4 February.

“Actually, I don’t want to promise anything. I don’t want to say that I’m already 100 percent (healthy). I would rather let my game do the talking,” the 6-foot-2 Manabat said.

“Let’s wait for the league to start and let the people be the judge if I’m back at 100 percent, 80 or 70 percent. I don’t want to pressure myself and fall short of expectations.”

Manabat, who helped Chery Tiggo annex the 2021 PVL Open Conference alongside sister and now Japan-based Jaja Santiago, is also embracing a bigger role for Akari.

Surrounded by young players eager to show their mettle, battle-hardened Manabat’s experience and veteran presence will serve as a huge boost for the Chargers, who finished eighth in the Reinforced Conference with three wins in eight games.

Manabat said that her teammates look up to her as a cherished big sister or team mom, taking over the role of Reinforced Conference import Olympian Priscilla Rivera of the Dominican Republic.

“I guess they treat me as their mommy or their big sister. (Trisha) Genesis calls me Mama D. They call me their Mama D. That I’m the new Mama in the team,” the national team standout said.

Capable of playing in both wing positions, Manabat is ready for whatever spot head coach Jorge de Brito wants her to play.

“I have no idea if they’ll play me at the opposite or open position. But I’m ready to play wherever coach Jorge wants me to play,” she said.

Manabat also cherishes her reunion with the national team tactician Jorge Edson de Brito. She played under the Brazilian coach during the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam where the Philippines finished fourth.

“I’m excited to play for coach Jorge. I’ve played for him before in the national team and I’ve learned a lot from him,” Manabat said.

“I may be a veteran, but I know I will learn more under him to help me improve my game.”

She also likes the challenge of leading a crew of young and promising squad, which also acquired the services of other seasoned players in Bang Pineda, Eli Soyud and Camille Victoria during the off-season.

“I liked what I saw in the young players, their effort. The way they played during the PVL Reinforced along with Mama Pri, they played without pressure. They just played their game and enjoyed each game. That’s what I like about this team,” Manabat said.

With a new home, Manabat vows to bring the same energy and effort that she gave in her previous clubs.

But this time fans will see a more relaxed and jollier “Mama D.”

“They will see the same aggressive and passionate Mama D. But this time they’ll see me smile more. I guess less frowning?” she quipped.

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