PLDT head coach Roger Gorayeb has confirmed Thursday the retirements of multi-awarded libero Tatan Gata-Pantone and seasoned hitter Sasa Devanadera.
Gorayeb admitted that losing his veterans is a big blow for the Power Hitters’ campaign if ever the 2021 Philippine Superliga (PSL) season would push through amid the pandemic, but has accepted the decision of his long-time wards, who are both employees of PLDT, to hang their jerseys after their long colorful careers in the sport.
“Actually last year pa ‘yun nagsabi sa akin (si Tatan). Akala namin kasi mababalik ang ensayo. Nagsabi siya sa akin na ‘di na raw muna siya maglalaro. Akala ko naman because may Covid, because manggagaling siya sa Bicol kasi doon siya naka-assign eh,” said Gorayeb. “Maraming nag-resign na player, si Devanadera nag-retire ‘yung isa ko pang player. Ngayon si Tatan, nagsabi sila na ‘coach si Tatan mukhang nag-retite na rin.’ Sabi ko hindi pa.”
“So ‘di kami nagkaintindihan noong unang usap namin so tinawagan ko siya na talagang ‘di na raw niya kayang mag-ensayo. Eh 33-years-old na rin si Tatan,” added the multi-titled mentor.
Both players last suited up for PLDT in March 2020 during the Grand Prix before the tournament was scrapped due to the pandemic.
Gata-Pantone, 32, and a product of the Adamson University volleyball program is considered as one of the best liberos in the country.
The Bicolana star was a vital cog for the then Dulce Pante-mentored Lady Falcons in the UAAP, anchoring the squad’s vaunted floor defense. She helped Adamson take a runner-up finishes in 2008 behind the Rachel Anne Daquis-led Far Eastern University.
Gata-Pantone won Best Digger thrice in the UAAP aside from steering Lady Falcons to three beach volleyball crowns and winning the MVP in 2009. She bagged four titles in the defunct Shakey’s V-League and powered BaliPure to its first-ever title in the Premier Volleyball League in 2017.
Devanadera, on the other hand, had been Gorayeb’s most-trusted ace since 2004 when she bannered San Sebastian College in the NCAA to three titles. The 33-year old spiker won four titles in the Shakey’s V-League, the last two with powerhouse PLDT.
She played for Perlas Spikers in 2017 and 2018 before reuniting with Gorayeb under the PLDT banner when the club transferred to PSL.
“Nagpapasalamat ako naging part ako ng career nila. Salamat sa leadership nila. Andiyan sila mula nung team na malakas lakas pa kami, hanggang ngayon na medyo nagkaedad na sila gusto pa rin nila makatulong at makalaro,” said Gorayeb.
“Kaya lang kailangan tanggapin talagang dadating ‘yung panahon na mawawala na rin sila. Kailangan magpahinga na rin,” he added.
With his veterans already called it quits, Gorayeb admitted that filling the void they left will be a big task.
“Siyempre malaki ang impact sa akin kasi sila ang mga senior players ko. Sila ang mga ate. Ngayon wala nang ate,” he said.
The mentor, who has just recovered from a bout with multiple myeloma, is currently recruiting players to beef up his lineup.
“May mga kinakausap na ako,” he said. “Tingnan natin.”