Can Magnificent 7 keep its sparkle?

After representing the country in the prestigious FIVB Women’s Club World Championship last week, the seven local players are set to rejoin their respective mother teams for the Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix, which resumes on November 3.

But, does it mean that it would be the end of that fabled team?

Skipper Rachel Anne Daquis said the team should serve as the core of future national team so that the lessons it gained competing against the world’s best players in one magical week will be cascaded to other equally deserving players.

Daquis, one of the most experienced players in the country after competing in the Southeast Asian Games and a handful of Asian championships, said the FIVB battle is an eye-opener for them, making them realized that coming up with a gallant fight against the giants of the world is very possible through longer preparation, foreign exposure and good chemistry.

After a decade of absence in the international circuit, the Philippines, through Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. (LVPI), is starting to make its presence felt once more. The country competed in the recent SEA Games, AVC Asian U23 Women’s Championship, AVC Asian Seniors Women’s Championship and the AVC Asian Seniors Women’s Championship.

This year alone, the country hosted the continental club battle and the world tilt where the best players in the world like Rio Olympics Most Valuable Player Zhu Ting, Tijana Boskovic, Thaisa Daher Pallesi, Tatiana Kosheleva and Foluke Akinradewo displayed their prowess for the entire country to witness.

The event was organized by the PSL with the cooperation from LVPI. Daquis said if they will be given more foreign exposures like this, they would surely blossom into a solid force.

[quote]I am very confident about the future – our country could be proud of us. We gave our best to meet the fans’ expectations, even if we did not succeed in our very first try in this world level tournament.[/quote]

Asian competition

Next year, will be a very busy year for the national team. Aside from the Thai-Denmark Super League, which will be represented by stars from the PSL, LVPI has to prepare for the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur as well as the Asian Seniors Women’s Championship, which the country will be hosting.

In between, there are other invitational tourneys like the VTV Cup and the four-nation regional league involving Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, a home-and-away battle being spearheaded by the Thailand Volleyball Association and the Asian Volleyball Confederation.

Daquis said with all these tourneys getting on their way, it would be logical if the Magnificent 7 will be retained and will be beefed up with some of the country’s brightest stars like Ara Galang, Aby Marano, Dawn Macandili, Alyssa Valdez, Dindin Manabat, Elaine Kasilag and Myla Pablo.

[quote cite=’Rachel Anne Daquis’]I hope that our sports officials will not break what is now being called as the Magnificent 7. All we need to do is to add several more players and we’ll take it from there. Let’s continue this. Let’s take advantage of the momentum we had after this very successful hosting of the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship.[/quote]

Thailand national team skipper Pleumjit Thinkaow strongly agrees with Daquis’ assessment. After all, Thailand’s domination in Asia wasn’t erected overnight. The Thais launched a massive talent identification program in the 1980s to determine the best young players in the country.

By the early 1990s, it dominated Southeast Asia. Around 20 years later, it won its first Asian gold medal. Earlier this year, it nearly made the Olympics if not for a controversial call slapped on head coach Kittipong Pornchartyingcheep in its do-or-die match against Japan.

All throughout that journey, the core of Pleumjit, Onuma Sittirak, Wilavan Apinyapong, Nootsara Tomkum, Ajcharaporn Kongyot remains intact. Pornchartyingcheep also remains as head coach for more than 30 years, a testament of the Thais’ consistency and longevity.

Pleumjit said she’s looking forward to playing with the group of Daquis, Gonzaga, Mika Reyes, Kim Fajardo, Frances Molina, Jen Reyes and Jaja Santiago in the next biennial meet in Kuala Lumpur.

[quote]Yes, I will be playing in the SEA Games again and I expect to see your Magnificent 7 there. The talent is already there. All you need is to stay together and develop it.[/quote]