PSL Manila stars jolt PHL volleyball

A banner crowd greeted PSL-F2 Logistics Manila when it marched to the warzone against Rexona-Sesc Rio of Brazil in the opener of the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship Tuesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.

From skipper Rachel Anne Daquis to Mika Reyes, Kim Fajardo and Jaja Santiago, everybody had their shining moment, proving that the young Filipinas have what it takes to compete against the best, against the biggest volleyball players in the world.

Daquis was simply impressive.

After surviving a couple of injuries, the comely RC Cola-Army star delivered a performance of a lifetime as she pierced the Brazilians’ defensive curtain with booming kills, much to the delight of local fans, who initially thought that no Filipina player will be fielded in this highly competitive battle.

Santiago and Fajardo also made a name for themselves as their impressive performance prompted international observers to see a bright future ahead for Philippine volleyball.

But the biggest revelation was Reyes.

Often overlooked after failing to win a single individual award in the collegiate ranks, Reyes proved that she’s more than just another beautiful face after deflecting a number of attacks and delivering a couple of strong hits that surprised even the world’s best blocker, Brazilian Ana Carolina Da Silva, who ended the night with a record-setting 10 blocks.

Every single defensive effort, every single point delivered by Reyes was celebrated by the massive crowd, knowing that this is no longer the UAAP, the PSL or even the SEA Games or Asian Games. This is a world championship, a tournament that has the same level of competitiveness than the Olympics, a battle that is five times more competitive than the NBA.

Now, the ultimate question is: What will Philippine volleyball gain from this massive exposure?

Door of opportunities

With the local players gaining massive experience in this world-class tourney, a prominent team official predicted that a lot of doors in the international arena will swing wide open for the Filipinas to enter.

Those in the know said this tournament is serving as a tryout for local stars as a group of international scouts and talent evaluators are carefully evaluating them, determining if they have what it takes to join prominent volleyball clubs around the world.

Another source who did not wish to go on record confirmed the claim, adding that with the Filipinas’ impressive performance, the FIVB and AVC might consider the Philippines as a volleyball haven in Asia next to Thailand, China and Japan. If that happens, a lot of international tournaments will be staged here, giving local coaches and players the exposure they need to improve the national team program.

PSL-F2 Logistics Manila team manager Vilet Ponce-de Leon said it’s impossible.

[quote]Everybody is surely learning a lot of things in this tournament, especially within the aspects of games, claims and level of skills in volleyball.

It could also open the doors of international leagues for us. At least now they saw the quality of our game and the kind of support our fans gives. This is such a golden opportunity for Philippine volleyball.[/quote]

PSL president Ramon Suzara said after the world club championship, a lot of international tournaments are in the pipeline, including the hosting of the prestigious AVC Asian Seniors Club Championship and the foundation of the Southeast Asian regional league together with Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Aside from that, the Philippines will also be joining the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur and a successful participation there will kick off the gold-medal campaign when the country formally hosts the topnotch regional meet in 2019.

[quote]This is just the start.

Next year will be another banner year for Philippine volleyball. I hope we can sustain this kind of momentum.[/quote]

Filipino spirit

But the best thing that’s happening in this world-caliber tournament is the cooperation among local coaches.

Aside from Ponce-de Leon, who used to call the shots for Foton, the PSL also tasked RC Cola-Army head coach Kungfu Reyes and seasoned setter Tina Salak, Cignal trainer Michael Carino, former Foton trainer Christian Fernandez, former Petron coach George Pascua, Generika coach Francis Vicente, F2 Logistics assistant coach Benson Bocboc and RC Cola-Army physical therapist Pau Tomas to be part of the training staff.

Moro Branislav of Serbia is the head coach and Shun Takahashi of Japan was the chief deputy.

It doesn’t matter, however, as all the country’s best coaches were in unison as they came out of the dugout clad in black to whip the team into fighting condition during the warm-up.
Nevermind if Pascua made history after sweeping the 2015 PSL All-Filipino Conference or if Ponce-de Leon and Fernandez steered Foton to the 2015 PSL Grand Prix title; the important thing is that they are here for a common cause which is to help carry the torch for Philippine volleyball.

[quote]That’s the spirit. We are in this together for the improvement of Philippine volleyball.

I always have faith and confidence on my team no matter how strong the opponent is. We know that through unity and cooperation, we can overcome all kind of hurdles.[/quote]

The smoke of the battle cleared and PSL-F2 Logistics Manila bowed to Rexona-Sesc Rio, 25-15, 25-13, 25-20. But the final scores no longer matter. The Filipinas already made their mark.

Philippine volleyball is back on its feet.