Next stop – National Team?

Moro Branislav lived above to his pre-tournament billing after guiding Foton to an impressive sweep of Petron to formally claim the 2016 Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix title over the weekend at Philsports Arena in Pasig City.

Despite parading a powerhouse roster, Branislav did a marvelous job motivating and preparing his wards, making sure that they are two or three steps ahead of Petron.

Multiple sources claimed that part of Branislav’s battle plan was to get into Stephanie Niemer’s head to fire her u, forcing her to single-handedly carry the cudgels for the Tri-Activ Spikers.

The plot worked to perfection as Niemer erupted for 32 points in Game 1 before delivering 31 points in Game 2. Unfortunately, her teammates failed to get involved with her support crew of Serena Warner, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Frances Molina and CJ Rosario being reduced into mere spectators.

[quote]It was a stroke of a coaching genius. Coach Moro allowed Petron to walk into a trap of allowing Niemer to do the damage alone. In the end, her teammates lost confidence, making it easier for Foton to assert its dominance. It was such a brilliant game plan from an experienced mentor.[/quote]

With Branislav successfully leading the Tornadoes in defending their title and steering them back to the AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship, a crucial question emerged: Will he accept the ultimate challenge of guiding the National Team in a pair of blockbuster international tournaments next year if ever he would be given the chance?

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Professional coach

An experienced globetrotter who had significant stops in countries like Romania, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Tunisia, Libya and Greece, the 59-year old Serbian knows international volleyball like the back of his hand.

In fact, he can memorize the names of major international players and has a good idea on their profiles, background, strengths, weaknesses and tendencies.

He is also an FIVB coaching instructor who enjoys a good relationship with world-class coaches like Bernardo Rezende, Massimo Barbolini, Giovanni Guidetti, Zoran Terzic and other mentors whom he coached against during the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship in Manila last October.

That’s why if ever the chance to call the shots for the National Team would crop up, Branislav would not hesitate to give it a try.

[quote]I am very open to new challenges like coaching your National Team. I am a professional coach and I will not say no to opportunities that come my way.[/quote]

Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. (LVPI) has yet to announce the composition of the team that would compete in the AVC Asian Seniors Women’s Championship in Manila and the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur next year.

Branislav said no formal offer has been extended to him and he wants to enjoy his sweet time in Manila before flying back to Belgrade this Saturday. Even Foton has yet to offer him an extension although its president and CEO Rommel Sytin made it clear that he wants the 59-year old Serbian to steer the Tornadoes to another title run next year.

[quote]So far, nothing is definite. No offer has been made. But if ever there will be one, I am very much willing to discuss it. I love the Philippines and I want to help your volleyball program. I would like to go back and help your team if ever I will be given the chance.[/quote]

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Boskovic model

Branislav said he is no miracle worker.

He stressed that if ever he will be given the chance to handle the National Team, he would go deep into the grassroots and tap young, tall girls who can serve as the country’s torchbearers in the future.

He refused to name names, but admitted that one of his key players in Foton — 20-year old Jaja Santiago — is a strong candidate after winning the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the PSL Grand Prix and seeing action in the AVC and FIVB tournaments this year.

Branislav said it would take at least four years of consistent training and international exposure before the Philippines would be at par with other Asian countries like Thailand, Iran and Chinese Taipei while Olympic champion China and Japan are way, way above.

Serbia, for instance, launched a four-year program shortly after finishing 11th in the 2012 London Olympics. The investment paid a handsome reward as the Serbians delivered a silver medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics and produced 19-year old wunderkind Tijana Boskovic, the MVP and Best Opposite Spiker of the recent FIVB Women’s Club World Championship.

[quote]Look at my country, Serbia. We launched a four-year program and it helped us produced some of the world’s best players like Boskovic, who is only 19. In the Olympics, we won a silver medal.[/quote]

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The right path

Branislav said LVPI is on the right track after giving the PSL the green light to organize continental and world tournaments this year. But if ever it wants to come up with a highly competitive team in the future, it has to start as soon as possible.

[quote]So far, I like what Philippine volleyball is doing because local players are getting exposed to major international tournaments. But for my opinion, it’s a long program and the federation must start as soon as possible. Give it four to six years and you can start seeing the results. Winning takes time and a lot of hard work and patience as well.[/quote]

Branislav said he would fly to Belgrade not only with a PSL Grand Prix gold medal hanging on his neck, but also with a good idea on Philippine volleyball and how its National Team can regain its glory.

If ever there will be a call, he will be ready. After all, he doesn’t back down from any challenge.