Rocky road for Magnificent 7

It’s going to be an uphill climb for the seven Filipina players as members of the world’s best club teams descend to Manila for the staging of the 2016 FIVB Women’s Club World Championship from Oct. 18 to 23 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Bangkok Glass, VakifBank Istanbul, Pomi Casalmaggiore, Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul, Rexona SESSC Rio, Hisamitsu Springs & Volero Zurich will all arrive feeling they have a genuine shot at the title.

Reigning champion Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul of Turkey will be checking in as the heavy favorite after winning the tournament’s previous edition last year in Zurich.

Not to be outdone, American powerhouse Rexona SESSC Rio of Brazil will also parade a powerful roster while Asian supremos Bangkok Glass of Thailand and Hisamitsu Springs of Japan will be banking on their speed, tactic and discipline in pulling off shocking victories against the giants of the world.

Also seeing action is the star-studded squad of Volero Zurich of Switzerland, European heavyweight Pomi Casalmaggiore of Italy and another Turkish superpower VakifBank Istanbul.

The home team would be parading skipper Rachel Anne Daquis and Jovelyn Gonzaga of RC Cola-Army, Kim Fajardo and Mika Reyes of F2 Logistics, Frances Molina and Jen Reyes of Petron and Jaja Santiago of Foton.

These seven Filipinas were branded as the “Magnificent 7” as they were given the heavy task of serving as vessels of volleyball technology, drills, techniques and strategy from the world stage to the local arena.

Seven foreign reinforcements are expected to power local stars, but things remain still blurry as the Philippine Superliga (PSL) is still ironing out some kinks to make the roster as strong as possible.

Anyway, here is the profile of the six other teams who are looking to take Manila by storm:

Bangkok Glass

Bangkok Glass of Thailand. Photograph:

After dominating the AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship in Vietnam last year, the Thais will be making their debut in this world-class battle.

Powered by Thai megastar Pleumjit Thinkaow with American spiker Ashley Frazier and Vietnamese middle blocker Thi Ngoc Hoa Nguyen, Bangkok Glass may not win it all, but is expected to make a decent run as it fashions a chemistry that was tested by time and nourished by the long time they spent together paying against the best of the world.

Frazier and Nguyen may serve as reinforcements on paper, but on the court, they are just complimentary pieces as Pleumjit, Wilavan Apinyapong, Jarasporn Bundasak and rising star Sutadta Chuewulim carried bulk of the scoring load with playmaker Pornpun Guedpard serving as conductor.

The Thais will also be marching in a very good condition as they are set to compete in the 2o16 AVC Cup in Vietnam next week following a grueling campaign in the Asian club championship in Binan City last week where they settled for a bronze medal following a thrilling victory over Altay VC of Kazakhstan.

VakifBank Istanbul

Vafikbank Istanbul of Turkey. Photograph:

A legitimate powerhouse in European volleyball circuit, VakifBank Istanbul will be wading into the waters of this prestigious club tournament with chip on its shoulders.

And why not, after winning the silver medal in 2011 in Doha and the gold medal in 2013 in Zurich, the CWC crown had been very elusive to the eight-time Turkish league champion.

Last year, in fact, VakifBank Istanbul failed to make it to the world club tourney as bitter rival Eczacibasi VitrA plucked the European title en route to winning the world club crown.

Rio Olympics Most Valuable Player Zhu Ting of China, who won a bronze medal in the club world championship for Guangdong Evergrande, will be leading the charge together with opposite spiker Lonneke Sloetjes of Netherlands and open hitter Kimberly Hill of the United States.

Pomi Casalmaggiore

Pomi Casalmaggiore of Italy. Photograph:

The queen of Italian volleyball, Francesca Piccinini, may have formally retired, but it doesn’t make Pomi Casalmaggiore less of a contender.

In fact, in the grueling European champions league, Europe’s version of the AVC Asian Club Women’s Championship, the Italians downed powerhouse Dinamo Kazan of Russia in straight sets before crushing VakifBank Istanbul of Turkey in the finals to claim the title and punch a ticket to the CWC.

It was a fairy-tale ending for Picinini as she won the Most Valuable Player award to serve as a fitting send off to Italy’s best women’s volleyball player ever.

This year would be a different journey.

Pomi Casalmaggiore will be coming in with Rio Olympics bronze medalist Carli Lloyd of the United States running the show as well as grizzled veteran Valentina Tirrozi, who is tipped to provide the leadership after serving as one of the last standing pillars in Italian volleyball.

Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul

Eczacibasi Vitra Istanbul of Turkey. Photograph:

After winning the crown last year over Russian powerhouse Dinamo Krasnodar, it will surely not be a cakewalk for Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul this year.

The 28-time Turkish league champion is no longer invincible as the rest of the field is showing seriousness to knock the crown of its head.

Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul, however, responded by assembling an indestructible squad headed by Rio Olympics silver medalist Tijana Boskovic of Serbia, Thaisa Menezes of Brazil, Rachel Adams and Jordan Larson-Burbach of the United States, Titiana Kosheleva of Russia with setter Maja Ognjenovic running the show.

Decorated Italian mentor Massimo Barbolinim the former head coach of Pomi Casalmaggiore, will be calling the shots, making this Turkish side the toughest team to beat in this five-day battle.

Rexona SESSC Rio

Rexona SESSC Rio of Brazil. Photograph:

If there’s a team tipped to win it all aside from Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul of Istanbul, it’s going to be 11-time Brazilian Superliga champion Rexona SESSC Rio.

After settling for the silver medal in 2013 and finishing fourth last year, the Brazilian side is eager to redeem itself as it made a recruiting coup by hiring Anne Bujis of Netherlands after campaigning from VakifBank Istanbul last year.

Bujis is no ordinary recruit.

The 6-foot-3 open spiker led the Dutch to a bronze-medal finish in the World Grand Prix in Bangkok a couple of months ago and is tipped to blend splendidly with Brazilian stars Gabi Guimaraes and Juicely Silva together with two-time Olympic gold medalist Fabi Oliveira at the backline.

Legendary Bernardo Rezende will be calling the shots shortly after steering Brazilian men’s national team to an Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro last month.

Hisamitsu Springs

Hisamits Springs of Japan Photograph:

Hisamitsu Springs may be coming in without height or extreme firepower, but it can be labeled as the most discipline, most hard working team in the tournament.

Making its third straight appearance in this prestigious tournament, the Japanese would be playing with a single one reinforcement in Polish middle blocker Maja Tokarska, but it doesn’t matter as the Japanese crew of Miyu Nagaoka, Risa Shinabe and Yuki Ishii had already proven that they could stand their ground against the power of Brazilians, Americans, Turkish and Italians spikers.

Volero Zurich

Volero Zurich of Switzerland. Photograph:

Volero Zurich may have been the most triumphant club in Switzerland, but its victories do not translate into success in the international level.

Despite stacking up its roster with quality talent, the crown remains elusive for Volero Zurich as it has yet to advance past the semifinals in three consecutive appearances in this prestigious tourney.

But last year, a small miracle happened.

Volero Zurich clobbered Rexona Ades of Brazil to finally cop the bronze medal behind champion Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul of Turkey and runner up Dinamo Krasnodar of Russia.

This year, the Swiss heavyweight stacked its roster with quality talents to finally win it all.

Brazilian stars Josefa Alves and Mariano Costas were tapped as well as Dobriana Rabadzhieva of Bulgaria and Silvija Popovic and Zivkovic of Serbia to assemble a solid, fighting team.

Zoran Terzic, the genius behind Serbia’s silver-medal finish in the Rio Olympics, will be calling the shots, vowing to finally end the golden drought for the hungry Swiss side.