Asian champion Bangkok Glass left for Bangkok Monday night following an impressive stint in the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship last week at the Mall of Asia Arena.
But before it boarded its flight, PSL-F2 Logistics Manila head coach Moro Branislav came up with a bold, yet very realistic, pronouncement: We hope to beat Bangkok Glass someday.
Branislav, the seasoned Serbian guru who is no stranger to Asian volleyball, said the Thai powerhouse should serve as a prototype in the formation of the Philippine national team. After all, the Thais are not too tall, but they can get the job done through their passion and love for the game.
In fact, during the FIVB tournament, the host squad came in as a heavy favorite as it paraded seven imports in Stephanie Niemer and Lindsay Stalzer of the United States, Lynda Morales of Puerto Rico, Ekaterina Krivets of Russia, Tichaya Boonlert of Thailand, Yuri Fukuda of Japan and Yevgeniya Nyukhalova of Ukraine.
The Thais, on the other hand, had only American Ashley Frazier and Vietnamese Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hoa as reinforcements.
Yet, Bangkok Glass exposed the PSL stars weaknesses using a quick and very disciplined Asian brand of volleyball. When Branislav opted to enter an all-Filipino crew of Rachel Daquis, Jovelyn Gonzaga, Mika Reyes, Kim Fajardo, Frances Molina and Jaja Santiago in the third set, it was too late as the momentum of the Thais was already soaring through the roof.
Branislav said winning an official match over Bangkok Glass remains his ultimate fantasy.
[quote]I respect Bangkok Glass and its big team, but I promised their team captain (Pleumjit Thinkaow) that maybe we will win over them in a future Asian competition.
They have big international players and they are the national team of Thailand. They are one of the best teams in FIVB.[/quote]
The rivalry – and friendship – between the Philippines and Thailand is well documented in international volleyball history. The Philippines used to rule the sport until the 1987 Southeast Asian Games in Jakarta. But Thailand knocked the crown of its head in the 1989 and 1991 editions in Kuala Lumpur and Manila, respectively.
With that, local volleyball officials overhauled the national team program, enabling the country to win the gold medal in the 1993 SEA Games in Singapore over the Thais in dramatic fashion. It, however, proved to be the last as the Thais went on to win the next 10 gold medals.
That’s why the Filipino spikers have such a high respect to Bangkok Glass, treating it as the gold standard of women’s volleyball in Asia. In fact, a Thai national in Anusorn Bundit guided Ateneo to a couple of UAAP crowns while various local universities sent their varsities to Thailand for off-season training. Thai players are also being hired as imports in local leagues because of their competitiveness, good character and high volleyball IQ.
In the Thai-Denmark Super League last year, the rag-tag group of Daquis, Cha Cruz, Aby Marano, Michelle Gumabao and other PSL standouts managed to win the first set before rolling over in the next three frames. On the same note, in the 2016 Thailand Women’s Volleyball Championship last August, reigning PSL Grand Prix champion Foton Pilipinas eeked out a victory in the third set over a Bangkok Glass side that didn’t have Pleumjit and other national team members.
Next year, the PSL stars and Bangkok Glass will get a lot of chances to face each other as they clash anew in the Thai-Denmark Super League and, possibly, in the regional commercial tournament among Southeast Asian nations like Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Philippines.
[quote]Bangkok Glass is an elite team. Coming up with 20 points contra Bangkok Glass is already an achievement. By next year, we’ll try to win over them.[/quote]
Bangkok Glass coach Kittipong Pornchartyingcheep said it’s just a matter of time before the PSL stars can finally beat them.
[quote]Playing against the Philippines is really very difficult because Filipino players are getting better every time. But we make sure to play great as well and get the victory.[/quote]
Pleumjit, the legendary team captain of Bangkok Glass, said the Magnificent 7, the Filipino crew deployed in the FIVB tourney, should stay together until the next SEA Games. After all, continuity serves as the key to an effective national team program.
[quote]Yes, I will be playing in the SEA Games next year 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]