Petro Gazz Angel Mar-Jana Phillips is Just Getting Started

Petro Gazz Angel Mar-Jana Phillips is Just Getting Started

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In an exclusive interview with MEGA Active, Mar-Jana Phillips gives us an insight into her life as a PVL player for the Petro Gazz Angels, saying she is hungry for more championships ahead

The Premier Volleyball League is chock full of talented athletes from more than just the Philippines., and Filipino-American Mar-Jana “MJ” Phillips of the Petro Gazz Angels is one such player. Having originally flown in from her hometown of California to play for the Sta. Lucia Lady Realtors, the middle blocker is thriving in the now semis-bound Petro Gazz Angels in the PVL All-Filipino Conference.

How did she get to this point? MJ says she first fell in love with volleyball around the 10th grade. “My friends actually dragged me to a volleyball meeting and from there, I decided I would give volleyball a shot. Ever since my first practice, I knew this was a sport that was special to me,” she shared.

Mar-Jana Phillips of Petro Gazz Angels

Growing up in America, playing professional volleyball in the Philippines can seem like a big decision to make. For her, the decision-making process was rather unconventional since a college assignment for her social media class was the starting point in this domino effect.

“The assignment was to post a [piece of] fake news and see people’s reactions. So many people positively reacted to my post about me playing volleyball professionally and when I had to tell them it was fake, everybody was mad [or] disappointed. So once I saw their reaction and how much support I got from them from the fake post I made, I said to myself, ‘Why not actually try to play?’ It would be a great reason for me to be closer to my lola at the time when she was alive. I was always very close to her growing up, and when I found out she was moving back to the Philippines to rest there, that’s when I knew I had to make my playing in the Philippines somehow happen,” she explained.

According to MJ, her grandmother played a significant role in not just her decision-making process, but also in her whole life. “My lola is someone who left a big impact on me. She helped raise me growing up. A lot of my childhood memories are with her. She was my number one supporter with volleyball. She gives me the strength to keep going when I feel like I have reached my end or I doubt myself,” MJ said of their relationship.

Mar-Jana Phillips of Petro Gazz Angels with her lola

When it was time to make her dream of playing volleyball in the Philippines a reality, she corresponded with the Philippine Super Liga. “I searched for an email for the Philippine Superliga back then and just wrote an email stating that I am a Fil-Am interested in playing volleyball there. Someone got back to me and helped my résumé reach all the teams. Santi Edralin—who was Sta. Lucia’s manager at the time—took a chance on me and signed me on with them for four years before Sta. Lucia got disbanded.”

In case you didn’t know, MJ’s former team disbanded in early 2022 when the Sta. Lucia Lady Realtors took a leave of absence from the PVL due to the pandemic. Regarding this situation, MJ said, “Sta. Lucia decided to disband and, luckily, Camille Cruz—who was Petro Gazz’s team manager at the time—reached out to me and showed interest. We met in LA to have our meeting. I guess it was perfect timing [or] meant to be. I do not regret my decision in the slightest.”

Mar-Jana Phillips of Petro Gazz Angels

In line with this, MJ only had positive things to say about the Petro Gazz Angels. “The team has been a great experience so far. Very professional and feels like a family as well. We are a competitive team, but [we] also love to have fun. [There’s] never a dull moment with everyone,” she said.

Now a year into joining the team, MJ shared that her proudest moment so far in her years-long career has been with the Petro Gazz Angels. “My proudest moment by far has to be winning the championship during the PVL reinforcement conference and getting First Best Middle Blocker. It’s been five years in the making and, before that, I have never received a championship or individual award before,” she explained. “Some would say I have been playing the wrong position all this time,” MJ ended with a laugh. Notably, MJ’s position in her former team was as an opposite hitter.

Mar-Jana Phillips of Petro Gazz Angels with her teammate and their Premier Volleyball League 2022 trophy

Along with the highs of playing professional volleyball, there are persistent challenges as well. For MJ and many other players, one of these challenges is having to miss major life events and holidays with family and friends due to the demands of the sport. “Another challenge is how demanding it is on one’s body playing at an elite level and making sure your body is fit to play at all times. We aren’t getting any younger so we constantly have to find new ways for our bodies to adapt,” MJ shared.

“Injuries can also not be just physically challenging, but mentally as well because you get stuck in your head of how you used to be and you struggle [to see] any progress. Small weights or movements used to be easy for you once and now, it’s the most difficult exercise [or] movement to do. It definitely gives you a defeating feeling. I’ve doubted myself before, saying whether I should just stop playing after rehabbing my injury or asked myself if I really want to continue to play because I miss my family and friends back home. Sometimes, the professional life can be lonely, especially if you play overseas,” MJ added.

Mar-Jana Phillips of Petro Gazz Angels

Nonetheless, MJ strives to overcome these challenges as best she can by always trying to stay in touch with her family members and friends using social media platforms like FaceTime. “I also have some hobbies to help me get over some things mentally such as playing video games, watching Netflix, journaling, getting a massage every so often, hanging out with friends here, and trying new things I haven’t done before,” she said. MJ is also a streamer under the username Chibogtime13.

Knowing what she knows now about professional volleyball, MJ has plenty of advice to give to aspiring players. “My advice to you aspiring PVL players is to never give up—no matter how many times someone says no to you. If you believe you can do it then just give it your all. Nothing is impossible. Also, putting yourself outside your comfort zone is a good thing. Always aspire for growth,” she said.

She continued, “I would say getting physically in shape and eating healthy would be a great start. Another big part of the game is taking care of your mental health to make sure you don’t get burnt out easily. Not being mentally tough can affect your performance, for sure.”

Mar-Jana Phillips of Petro Gazz Angels with Premier Volleyball League 2022 trophy

With everything said and done, MJ only has one thing left to say to her supporters: “I would love to tell my supporters that I’m not done yet. I’m just getting started. I’m hungry for more championships ahead. I would love to eventually try out my skills in another country if that is possible.”

Photos from MAR-JANA PHILLIPS (via Instagram)

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