Gonzaga, Santiago as FIVB CWC starters?

Jovelyn Gonzaga of RC Cola-Army and Jaja Santiago of Foton loom as strong candidates for the starting positions when PSL-F2 Logistics Manila competes in the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship from Oct. 18 to 23 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

A prominent insider revealed that Serbian coach Moro Branislav was impressed with the performance of Gonzaga and Santiago in the early stretch of the team’s preparation, prompting him to tackle the possibility of appointing them as starters.

Branislav is said to be preparing a battle plan that will make use of the attacking prowess of Gonzaga as well as the height, length and athleticism of Santiago, who is reportedly being eyed by a lot of scouts and talent evaluators from around the world.

Gonzaga’s possible appointment as starter would not only turn American Lindsay Stalzer and Ukrainian Yevgeniya Nyukhalova into strong scoring options off the bench, but will also give her massive experience that she can use when she competes for the national team in major international tournaments ahead.

On the other hand, Santiago will be sharing the offensive and defensive chores at the middle with 6-foot-5 Ekaterina Krivets of Russia, Olympian Lynda Morales of Puerto Rico and Mika Reyes of F2 Logistics.

The source said the friendly matches with PSL and collegiate clubs are very crucial for Branislav as he will based his decision depending on their performance in game-time situations.

[quote]Coach Moro is seriously studying the possibility of having Jovelyn and Jaja start for PSL-F2 Logistics Manila.

The main objective of facing PSL and collegiate teams in tune-up matches is not to flex their muscles and dominate the opponent. The goal here is to find the right combinations on the floor to make it easier for him to decide who will be the starters in a massive tournament like this.

But based on how they perform, it appears that Jovy and Jaja already have an advantage.[/quote]

Branislav refused to speculate, but hinted that Filipinos would see a lot of minutes on the floor.

[quote]We’re already working on it.

This is a tournament as big as the Olympics and we want to display the talent of local players to volleyball fans around the world.[/quote]

More minutes for Kim

The source said Kim Fajardo of F2 Logistics is also making her presence felt.

Although Tichaya Boonlert of Thailand is already a cinch to grab the starting playmaker slot, Fajardo’s impressive performance during training and scrimmages is making it hard for Branislav to decide.

Fajardo is capable of springing a surprise.

Billed as one of the best playmakers in the country today, Fajardo stunned Boonlert and the Thai national juniors team when she dominated them in a friendly match last June.

The Lady Spikers prevailed and Fajardo gained the respect of Thai coach Chamnan Dokmai, who dropped hints that Fajardo will blossom into one of the most important players in Philippine volleyball.

PSL president Ramon Suzara, in fact, brought in seasoned international campaigner Tina Salak into the training team to pay special attention on Fajardo’s development.

[quote]Although Tichaya is playing like a machine during training, we can’t discount the vast improvement of Kim.

Kim’s playmaking is on point. Her form is flawless and her services perfectly compliment the height, length and athleticism of foreign spikers. As we know, Kim is a student of the game and she’s working doubly hard to gain more minutes during actual games.

We will not be surprised if Moro gives more minutes to Kim. [/quote]

Slot for Rachel?

With Gonzaga and Santiago tipped to barge into the starting unit and Fajardo challenging Boonlert for the starting spot, the race for open spiker position is wide open.

The source said explosive American spiker Stephanie Niemer is tipped to provide the fireworks in the starting unit, making the race for the wing hitter spot wide open for skipper Rachel Anne Daquis, Frances Molina, Nyukhalova and Stalzer.

Daquis, the source said, could also see more minutes as her performance in training prompted Branislav to give her a second look.

[quote]Rachel is getting stronger every day. Her improvement is impressive.

Maybe it’s because of the competitive atmosphere in training and her willingness to give her best because playing at this level is her ultimate dream. If Branislav appoints Rachel as starter, we will also not be surprised.[/quote]

Aside from Daquis, Jen Reyes could also see major minutes as defense specialist next to Yuri Fukuda of Japan.

The source said Branislav’s decision completely debunked speculations that local players will be reduced into mere spectators when they face super teams like Bangkok Glass, Hisamitsu Springs Kobe, Pomi Casalmaggiore, Volero Zurich, Rexona-SESC Rio, Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul and VakifBank Istanbul.

Their active participation in this world-class tourney will not only improve their respective careers, but will also uplift the state of Philippine volleyball, similar to Thai players who blossomed into a superpower after competing in a lot of topnotch tournaments.

[quote]Just imagine the impact this tournament would create on Philippine volleyball.

That’s why our local players are working hard in training. They want to gain more minutes in a world-class tournament like this and help carry the torch for Philippine volleyball.[/quote]