With the Philippine Superliga (PSL) formally announcing that it will reveal the third owner of the golden ticket on Sunday, social media was on fire as to who will be the next to walk away with it.
The stage was set: Jovelyn Gonzaga and Rachel Anne Daquis of RC Cola-Army were the first to own it. They were presented in a press conference last week with no less than FIVB executive council member Stav Jacobi and Eventcourt CEO Peter Bratschi joining PSL president Ramon Suzara and chairman Philip Ella Juico in welcoming them.
F2 Logistics star Mika Reyes was there as well as Cha Cruz.
She formally received the plaque signifying the start of her reign as the league’s ambassador.
Lost in the excitement was the tiny piece of information from multiple sources that the next owner of the golden ticket will come from F2 Logistics. After all, the Cargo Movers are currently on top of the heap with a 4-0 mark in the ongoing PSL All-Filipino Conference.
Sources said only one of the five Cargo Movers would pocket the golden ticket on Sunday. The remaining four, meanwhile, would have to wait for a while as the league said the seven-woman local roster would not be completed until the end of July.
It’s going to be a tough choice. Reyes, Majoy Baron, Kim Fajardo, Kim Dy and Dawn Macandili all deserve to be part of that historic team that will see action in the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship at the Mall of Asia Arena from Oct. 18 to 23.
Fajardo, for one, is a heavy favorite as she was regarded as the playmaker of the future by various coaches, fans and even media. In fact, reporters got a hint that she will make it after she joined a setting seminar ran by a noted Korean mentor last month.
Aside from that, she also submitted herself to the mentorship of Tina Salak, RC Cola-Army’s evergreen playmaker who won a silver medal in the 1995 Southeast Asian Games.
Now, the question is: Will Fajardo walk away with the golden ticket on Sunday, or will anyone from Reyes, Dy, Baron and Macandili snatch the third slot away from her?
Still, a lot of things could happen between now and Sunday and there’s no assurance that the golden ticket will be handed to Fajardo on a silver platter as coaches are still deliberating together with top PSL officials.
Here are the candidates and their chances for that golden ticket:
Arguably the best libero today, Macandili is the engine that powers the defense of F2 Logistics.
Her international resume may not be as thick as, say, Jen Reyes, Tin Agno or Jheck Dionela, but she gets the job done through sheer hard work and dedication in chasing the ball.
After all, the floor is her territory and she defends it as if her life is on the line.
Multiple sources claimed that the PSL is seriously studying the possibility of hiring a foreign setter and six tall, quick and athletic foreign spikers to match the power and intensity of the world’s best spikers.
They also claimed that the league might hire a Japanese or Brazilian trainer – a noted drillmaster – to work closely on the PSL All-Star’s blocking and floor defense.
If that happens, an ocean of opportunity will open up for Dawn, giving her not only a chance to perform against the best players in the world, but also a valuable experience which she can employ in the next UAAP season.
That’s good news for La Salle!
If social media buzzes are to believe, it would be a mortal sin to leave Fajardo in the cold.
Yes, Fajardo is billed as the setter of the future. A handful of coaches agree on that, even going to the extent of claiming that she has what it takes to compete at a higher level, probably at the level of these foreign stars, given proper training and right amount of exposure.
She obviously knows it.
But there’s a problem, though.
How if the PSL treks a different direction and decides to entrust the playmaking chore to a foreign player, say a Japanese or Brazilian setter? Or how if the league pulls off a gutsy move and reward veteran Rubie de Leon with the prestige of competing in the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship?
The possibilities are endless.
A lot of things can still happen.
Nothing is cast in stone.
Fajardo would surely make it; there’s no question in that.
The only question is: when?
Baron made a pretty strong run to join the prestigious team when she reportedly impressed a lot of coaches during the one-day tryout last month.
Those who witnessed the drills said Baron did nothing but to intimidate and block enemy missiles using her great wingspan and high defensive IQ. She terrorized the net and anticipated the spikers by perfectly reading the tendencies of the opposing setter.
That kind of effort is exactly what the PSL All-Star team needs. It doesn’t need strong wingers who light up the scoreboard. Imports can supply the offensive output. What it needs is a role player, a solid blocker who can erect a solid defensive tower at the net.
If Baron fails to make it, we expect somebody like Mika Reyes, Jeanette Panaga or Lourdes Clemente to clinch the coveted middle blocker position.
Reyes could end up as the biggest surprise in the final roster.
With her vastly improved game and commitment to defense, PSL coaches were intrigued with her potential, believing that by exposing her in this top-flight tourney, she would be a force to be reckoned with in future international tournaments, including the 30th Southeast Asian Games which Manila will host in 2019.
And Reyes would surely not disappoint.
She is a three-time UAAP champion and based on her performance in the previous PSL Grand Prix, she can stand her ground against powerful hitters like Lynda Morales of Puerto Rico and Bojana Todorovic and Ariel Usher of the United States.
This year, her improvement continues – and with La Salle stopping mighty Ateneo in an epic UAAP finale, her confidence further soared to meteoric rise.
A seasoned coach said: How can you ignore somebody who wouldn’t back down from the powerful spikers?
But her biggest advantage is her title as PSL ambassador.
Sources said her prestige as the face of the league bears a lot of weight since she will serve as the league’s official spokesperson and ambassador of goodwill before foreign players, coaches and guests and other dignitaries during the week-long spikefest.
And with the league promoting the beauty and power of Filipina athletes, she can help Rachel Anne Daquis and Jovelyn Gonzaga in launching the country’s charm offensive against the best players on the face of the earth.
Dy is the dark horse among those who tried their lucks.
After gaining tremendous experience playing with the PSL stars in the AVC Asian Seniors Women’s Championship in Tianjin, China last year, Dy blossomed into one of the most important young opposites in the country today.
She served as a reliable option for Fajardo when La Salle bagged the UAAP crown. When the smoke cleared, she ran away with the Most Valuable Player of the finals award. That’s what experience in a major international tournament can do to the career of a young buck like her.
But there’s a little problem.
While she is regarded as a perfect project, she will be fighting her slot with a more seasoned, more decorated players like Aiza Maizo-Pontillas of Petron. Another prime opposite, Gonzaga, is also safely on the team, making it quite difficult for her to squeeze in.
But still, miracles do happen.
And the mere fact that she was invited to the tryouts means that she stands a chance. All she ahs to do is to keep her fingers crossed and be brave in proving herself for the Cargo Movers.
After all, fortune always favors the bold.