Tension was in the air as F2 Logistics was on the verge of completing its journey back to the Philippine Superliga (PSL) All-Filipino Conference throne.
Suddenly, Kalei Mau soared from the backrow to deliver a powerful attack that reverberated from the concrete jungles of Manila to the enchanting Hawaiian island of Kahaluu. It was a kill so powerful that it shattered the heart of Cignal and installed F2 Logistics as the new queen of the All-Filipino.
Not far from the court were two visitors who were cheering wildly for the Filipino-Hawaiian spiker.
They were Mau’s biggest fans.
“My grandmother and my dad, they mean so much to me,” said Mau, who made sure to rush to the gallery to hug her two biggest supporters, the angels who made everything happen.
“It’s important that I went there and share my aloha, love and appreciation to them. It means a lot to me.”
When the smoke cleared, Mau tallied a game-high 19 points and emerged as Most Valuable Player.
More than that, the Cargo Movers regained the All-Filipino title, the crown that had been eluding them for the past two years.
If not for her dad and grandmother, Tyler-Marie Kalei Mau wouldn’t be in the middle of a championship celebration in the most prestigious volleyball league in the country.
In fact, it was her dad, Steven, and grandmother, Mary Anne, who encouraged Mau to fly to Manila not just to play professional volleyball, but also to rediscover her roots and power her native country in various international competitions, including the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
That’s why everything went smooth the first time she got in touch with former United Volleyball Club (UVC) head coach Joshua Ylaya.
Everyone came together and got it handled.
“It’s not everyday that a gem of a talent like Kalei would want to give up a lucrative life overseas just to play in Manila,” said Ylaya in an interview done right after securing Kalei’s commitment.
“She is arguably one of the rising stars in the United States and star player for the Arizona Wildcats. But the mere fact that she wanted to let go of her chances to play in countries in Europe means something. There’s a deeper reason behind it.”
“Simply put, she wanted to play here because she wants to share her talents to her countrymen and help us in our quest for international glory.”
True enough, Mau wasted no time in kicking off that quest.
She took the PSL by storm and played like a third import in the Grand Prix in 2018. Then, she returned to action the following year to power UVC in its trying times due to the midseason withdrawal of import Tai Manu-Olevao.
But the run of UVC didn’t last long.
The club disbanded days before the All-Filipino, leaving Mau looking for another team that would make her dream of playing for the Philippines a reality.
Then, F2 Logistics came calling.
“She put everything this time. Kalei came from another team, it got disbanded and got herself into a great team. That was all pretty decent. Things happen for a reason,” said Steven, adding that her daughter did a tremendous job in leading the Cargo Movers.
“She repaid their faith by leading them to the title.”
Mary Anne said seeing Mau emerging with the shiny golden crown didn’t come as a surprise.
She said her fighting attitude and stubbornness had brought her places, starting from University of Minnesota to Arizona to a couple of club teams in Puerto Rico and France.
“She’s a born winner,” said the 71-year old matriarch, who also played competitive volleyball back in the day.
“I just told her to be herself coming into this game because that’s the way of winning it — to be herself.”
Steven, on the contrary, admitted that there were scary moments before seeing his daughter emerged victorious.
He said Game 1 was nerve-wracking as the HD Spikers, powered by the veteran duo of Rachel Anne Daquis and Jovelyn Gonzaga with another Filipino-Hawaiian in Alohi Robins-Hardy running the plays, were tough nuts to crack as they refused to quit after being downed by two sets.
Fortunately for the Cargo Movers, they found a way to win that gave them massive momentum heading into Game 2.
Then in Game 2, Mau simply took over.
“I told her to just do her thing. It’s just another day and another game,” said Steven, adding that her wife would be flying to Manila in December to watch Mau in the SEA Games.
“They played at a low level against Cignal in Game 1 and the that shouldn’t happen two times in a row.”
“Everyone came together and got it handled.”
Not far away, Mau was seen celebrating.
This is her reward for taking the risk and flying to Manila despite tempting offers from around the world.
And she couldn’t have done it without the support of her angels.