Army braces for new chapter

With most of its players in military training, RC Cola-Army is ready to forego the 2017 season of the Philippine Superliga (PSL).

But it doesn’t mean that these proud Lady Troopers are ready to fade.

RC Cola-Army coach Kungfu Reyes said their scheduled hiatus would surely lead to a stronger, better squad once Jovelyn Gonzaga, Honey Royse Tubino and other key players emerge from their mandatory eight-month Candidate Soldier training course at the Training and Doctrine Center of the Philippine Army in Capas, Tarlac.

This year has been very good to the Lady Troopers.

After a three-conference absence, the Lady Troopers marched back to the PSL with a masterful conquest of the Thailand national juniors team to cop the PSL Invitational Conference crown.

It was such a historic moment for Philippine volleyball as Army became the first team to trounce a Thai ballclub since the National Team won in the gold-medal game of the 1993 Southeast Asian Games in Singapore.

[quote]We had a very good start last January when we won over the juniors team of Thailand, which is a historic moment in Philippine volleyball.[/quote]

Then, Gonzaga and Nerissa Bautista kept Army’s streak going when they ruled the PSL Beach Volleyball Challenge Cup over the young tandem of Cherry Rondina and Patty Orendain of Foton. But everything went downhill from there.

Injuries plagued the Lady Troopers with star spiker Rachel Daquis crashing with a broken foot in the crucial stretch of the PSL All-Filipino Conference while age finally caught up legends Tina Salak and Michelle Carolino.

[quote]Due to the long conference, with AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) Olympics on the side, we did not have enough time to rest. The brittleness of our bones started to show up.[/quote]

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Looking to the future

Despite the collapse, Reyes believes that volleyball is in good hands.

Foton, which used to occupy the cellar, suddenly turned into a powerhouse squad while F2 Logistics and Petron remain a solid force to be reckoned with. Generika is also emerging with the young nucleus of Ria Meneses, Chloe Cortez and Shaya Adorador doing most of the damage.

Reyes said he’s proud of this team for somehow making it to the semifinals.

[quote]At least in the end, we’re still in the top four. The landscape of volleyball had changed completely. A lot of teams had already improved while age had caught us up. We are now forced to challenge ourselves and make necessary adjustments.[/quote]

Reyes said once Gonzaga, Tubino, Bautista, Tin Agno and the rest of the military-athletes emerge from their mandatory training, they will come up with the necessary steps to revive their once proud, once colorful volleyball program.

It’s going to be a dawn of new era as their heart and soul in Salak would no longer be around while Carolino also opted to hang up her jersey due to recurring back problem.

[quote]A lot of things would happen after this year. Definitely, an overhaul would be made. Kung papano, hindi ko din alam. But we’ll not let ourselves get left behind. We just have to take this much-needed rest and come back stronger to reclaim our crown as soon as everybody is back on board.[/quote]

When asked what are the other things in the pipeline, Reyes just smiled.

He knows that they are capable of making a comeback, of opening a new chapter in their volleyball program. But for now, all he wants is to rest and give these heroes a time to recover.