Just a mere glimpse at the final roster of teams competing in the AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship and Fabio Menta already has a good idea on what his Foton Pilipinas would need to hit its target of a semifinal finish.
His prognosis is simple: They need to play the game of their lives.
Yes, this prestigious continental battle is not a cakewalk.
The Tornadoes must overcome Pocari Sweat of Hongkong and Thongtin Lienvietpost Bank of Vietnam in the group stages to advance. Things will get tougher from there as either the NEC Red Rockets of Japan or the Altay Volleyball Club of Kazakhstan will be blocking their path to a semifinal finish.
The Japanese will be a tough customer.
The Kazakhs are no push over, either.
They will be parading three imports in Russian Olga Biryukova, Bulgarian Vanya Varbanova and Cuban Yunieska Robles Batista on top of the local players, who are composed of national team members.
And if and when Foton Pilipinas would be lucky enough to survive any of these two titans, Rio Olympics gold medalist Yuan Xinyue and the Ba’yi Shenzheng of China would be waiting at the door of the semifinals.
It’s really a tough field.
Foton Pilipinas would be playing like a young hyena in a jungle full of lions.
But Menta isn’t worried — not at all.
As he said: pressure is a privilege.
Key to victory
Menta admitted that Foton Pilipinas is still a work in progress.
Imports Ariel Usher and Lindsay Stalzer arrived only three weeks ago while the entire team started its training only two weeks back with a tournament in Sisaket, Thailand. Even worst, prized middle blocker Jaja Santiago didn’t make the trip due to academic commitment while Jovelyn Gonzaga failed to secure a travel permit from the Philippine Army.
Santiago had attended training only once while Gonzaga trained only thrice.
And it’s Menta’s biggest concern at this point.
[quote]Jaja’s adaptation and blocking at the opposite side are the only concerns at this point.
We are working very hard on every single detail and everyone is focused. But Jaja trained only once and Jov three times. We will not be perfect.[/quote]
Menta said they couldn’t take Hongkong for granted as the team will be parading a core of experienced players who can attack above the net.
He said they are eyeing a convincing wins over Hongkong and Vietnam in order to build enough momentum and confidence for the quarterfinals.
[quote]It’s an experienced team with a couple of quick players. They are not tall, except for a middle blocker. They attack the ball just above the net so blocking will be the key to victory.
Discipline at block and defense correlation is what I am looking for.[/quote]
But Menta said there’s only one player who can bail them out of trouble – Santiago.
[quote]Hong Kong and other teams are big obstacles if we do not perform at blocking.
So, one game at a time, and day after day, we can have Jaja understand the new schemes and improve the mechanism. Until them we can be vulnerable.[/quote]
The Asian battle could be a prelude to a bigger war ahead – the PSL Grand Prix.
With Usher and Stalzer blending early with Santiago, Rhea Dimaculangan, Maika Ortiz, Cherry Rondina, EJ Laure, Patty Orendain and other local players, the Tornadoes will have a headstart over other heavyweights like F2 Logistics, Petron and RC Cola-Army.
And if ever Foton emerges victorious, it will have another chance to return to the Asian tournament, this time, more ready, more prepared than its previous outing.
[quote]It may be too late for the AWCC, but the club (Foton) wants to develop for the Grand Prix and other international events next year.
That is my job.[/quote]
True enough, Foton Pilipinas is tipped to do its very best to play the game of its life.
It may not be perfect, there may be some turbulence along the way, but the effort would be there.
It would boldly fight until its last breathe.
Menta assured that.
He knows that fortune always favors the bold.