The stage is set as PSL-F2 Logistics Manila makes its debut in the prestigious FIVB Women’s Club World Championship Tuesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Skippered by Rachel Anne Daquis, the home team is marching as the heavy underdogs as only two of them in Ekaterina Krivets and Yevgeniya Nyukhalova have world championship experience while Lynda Morales has seen action in the Olympics.
The team prepared for only 25 days so there’s really no way for it to win against the giants of the world, against the team powered by Olympians and world championship campaigners, against players who eat, drink and breathe volleyball for more than half of their lives.
So more than anything else Daquis, Mika Reyes, Kim Fajardo, Jen Reyes, Frances Molina, Jaja Santiago and Jovelyn Gonzaga will be marching there not to win the crown but to gain massive experience, something that they could use when they spearhead the rebooting of the Philippine volleyball program. And their head coach, Serbian Moro Branislav, of Serbia knows that.
[quote]This is a tournament maybe five times bigger than the NBA. All of the world’s best volleyball players are here.
This is a massive tournament and we want to enjoy every moment of it. We are being realistic. We may not win it all, but we will be ready.[/quote]
A team insider said Branislav has yet to call for hard, rigid training since opening the training camp last month. The source said PSL-F2 Logistics Manila’s preparation focuses more on weights training and developing of chemistry on and off the court.
After all, Branislav knows that there’s really no way for them to prevail over the squads of Rio Olympics Most Valuable Player Zhu Ting and world-class players like Fabiana Oliveira, Tatiana Kosheleva, Jordan Larson, Gabi Guimaraes, Juicely Silva, Carli Lloyd and Foruke Akinradewo.
[quote]These players are light years ahead from us – and everybody knows that.
This is a golden moment for Philippine volleyball. The goal here is not to win the crown, but to gain the experience we could use in the next few years to come. Coach wants us to go out there and have fun.[/quote]
Aside from on-court drills and training, PSL-F2 Logistics Manila also had some friendly matches with collegiate teams and PSL clubs. The final scores were very close. But the source explained that the goal of the tune-up matches was not to win convincingly, rather than to find the right combination on the floor and simulate their movements and reactions in game-time situation.
[quote]Coach told us that we should not be worried about the final score.
Those friendly matches were meant to experiment and find the right combination on the floor – not to hammer down the opponent. So basically, coach Moro was observing, experimenting and making some adjustments all the time.[/quote]
The source added that a month of preparation is not really enough.
[quote]We will be facing players who are playing competitively together as a club for the past five to seven years. And we know that it will take a miracle before we could win over them.[/quote]
Ready to win
Branislav is aware of the rocky road ahead. He, however, didn’t discount the idea of pulling off a massive upset – a win that would go down in history as the biggest, most shocking victory for Philippine volleyball.
PSL-F2 Logistics Manila will tip things off against Rexona-Sesc Rio, headed by legendary coach Bernardo Rezende, who steered the Brazilian men’s team to a gold-medal finish in the Rio Olympics. The Brazilian side is powered by two-time Olympic gold medalist Fabi, Gabi, Juicely and Dutch wing spiker Anne Bujis.
[quote]We respect the high level of competition. Although we played together for 25 days, maybe we can beat Rexona.[/quote]
On the same note, Rezende stressed that things will never be easy.
[quote]These are the best players in the world. We are here to learn to work out and improve.[/quote]
Yes, the road to victory would never be a cakewalk for PSL-F2 Logistics Manila. But this early, the local squad is already victorious for sharing the same court with the best players in the planet.