PHL Volleyball’s Dirty Dozen

The Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. (LVPI) formally released the 12-woman roster for the Asian Senior Women’s Championship and the 29th Southeast Asian Games this August.

Team captain Mika Reyes leads the squad together with seasoned international campaigners Rhea Dimaculangan, Maika Ortiz, Abigail Marano, Jovelyn Gonzaga and Aiza Maizo-Pontillas.

Rising stars Dennise Lazaro, Kim Fajardo, Gen Casugod, Jaja Santiago, Frances Molina and Alyssa Valdez were also added in the team that is being groomed to bring back the country to Asian volleyball map.

One major surprise, however, is the relegation of Rachel Anne Daquis to the reserve list.

A many-time national team member who serves as face of the country in major international tournament, Daquis was dropped from the final roster together with promising libero Dawn Macandili.

A team insider revealed the national coaches, headed by Francis Vicente, had a long, agonizing discussion about the composition of the final lineup.

It was a collective decision where they evaluated and ranked the players based on their attitude, commitment, attendance and skills. Even their performance in the previous AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship in Kazakhstan was also used as a basis for the selection.

Aside from Vicente, also deciding on the final roster are coaches Ronald Dulay, Brian Esquibel, Nene Ybanez-Chavez, Kungfu Reyes and Ian Fernandez.

[quote]“This is not coach Francis’ decision alone.”[/quote]

[quote]“The national coaches have been deliberating, sometimes arguing, for quite some time regarding the composition of the final roster. It was a very long and democratic process. Everybody fought for their respective choices and this is the outcome.”[/quote]

Volleyverse tried but again Vicente declined to issue any statement.

The federation, through vice president Peter Cayco, is expected to submit the roster to the Philippine Sports Commission-Philippine Olympic Committee joint SEA Games task force tomorrow.

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Rocky road

But the selection of the 12-woman roster is just the start of the country’s return to the medal podium of the SEA Games.

The team would continue its daily training while campaigning for their respective clubs in the Philippine Superliga (PSL) All-Filipino Conference.

Once the PSL is over on July 15, the squad will fly to Japan for a training camp from July 18 to 26 and to China for another boot camp from July 27 to Aug. 2.

The foreign exposure was made possible by PSL president Ramon “Tats” Suzara, who maintains solid ties with the Chinese and Japanese volleyball federations and also the chairman of the powerful development and marketing committee of the Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC).

As soon as the team returns to Manila, it will engage in another grueling week of training before the AVC Asian Senior Women’s Championship formally raises its curtains on Aug. 9 in Manila.

The Asian Seniors is the most elite volleyball tournament in the continent where super teams like China, Japan, South Korea and Thailand are seeing action.

Australia and New Zealand will also be competing, forcing the Philippines to come up with a solid preparation to avoid a shutout in its own turf.

Sources say there’s a strong possibility that Rio Olympics Most Valuable Player Zhu Ting of China as well as global superstar Kim Yeon-kuong of South Korea will be seeing action.

But the real battle will be the SEA Games.
After a bronze-medal finish in 2005, the Philippines took a decade of absence only to resurface again in the Singapore SEA Games in 2015.

The road to the medal podium, however, proved to be rocky.

The Philippines bombed out of medal contention after painful setbacks to Indonesia and Vietnam. Although the Nationals prevailed over the young Malaysians, they still bombed out of medal podium.

And that’s the main motivation of the federation.

Cayco said they are eyeing for a podium finish to gain momentum and contend for the gold medal when the country hosts the biennial meet in 2019.

[quote]“This is a long-term program that starts with winning a medal of any color.”[/quote]

[quote]“At least if we accomplish that, we can now work hard and win the gold medal when we host the SEA Games in 2019.”[/quote]

He expressed optimism that the ultimate mission of returning back to prominence will soon be realized.

And this is nothing, but just the start.