Re-tooling the National Team pool

Saturday, 02 Sep 2017
Julius Manicad - Chief Correspondent - @JCManicad

The national women’s volleyball team wrapped up its participation in the AVC Asian Senior Women’s Championship and the 29th Southeast Asian Games with slight improvement and a lot of promise.

From 12th, the Nationals jumped to eighth place in the Asian Seniors while finally advancing to the semifinals in the SEA Games after a lowly fifth-place finish in the previous edition in Singapore.

But the progress doesn’t – or shouldn’t – end there.

Sources said the Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. (LVPI) is seriously studying the possibility of sitting down with top stakeholders to map out a two-year plan that would culminate when the country hosts the biennial meet in 2019.

Top volleyball patron in Foreign Affairs Sec. Alan Peter Cayetano also expressed willingness to be part of the program, even going to the extent of promising a long-term training plan and all-out foreign exposure.

Although nothing definite at the moment, only one thing is sure: That the national squad will open its doors to other players to jack up its pool back to 25 where the 14 players will be picked.

With that in mind, the next important question is: Who deserve to be part of the national pool?

Volleyverse asked sources from the national team program and here are the possible invitees:

Honey Royse Tubino

Photo courtesy of Philippine Superliga

 

If there’s one thing that the national squad lacked during the previous tournaments, it’s firepower.

It was pretty obvious that offense had been the waterloo of the national squad in the Asian Seniors and the SEA Games. The Nationals looked tentative at the firing end, especially whenever open spikers Alyssa Valdez or Frances Molina were not in scoring positions.

With that, it is only fitting to add a veteran scorer who can pump life into their sagging offense while providing the veteran leadership and court savvy that Valdez and Molina couldn’t supply in their off-days.

Royse Tubino fits the bill.

A grizzled warrior, Tubino is one of the country’s best players in the international arena. In fact, she was the dynamo that powered RC Cola-Army against Est Cola of Thailand in the finals of the Philippine Superliga (PSL) Invitational Conference last year.

Her addition would definitely be a welcome development to a team that already has solid backing and backline defense.

Rachel Ann Daquis

Photo courtesy of Philippine Superliga

Aside from offense, there’s one more thing that has been missing in the national squad: Leadership.

Team captain Mika Reyes may be an able leader and a good defender, but she’s shy and soft-spoken, an attitude that rubs into her teammates when the going gets tough.

That’s when the national team needs Daquis.

A battle-scarred warrior who already had an overflowing international experience under her belt, Daquis’ veteran leadership is one of a kind.

She’s not afraid to call out her teammates when things are not going right and celebrate every single point in jubilation as if it is their last.

Together with another energetic leader in Aby Marano and Dindin Manabat, Petron bullied its way to a 14-0 sweep of the Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix in 2015 where Daquis emerged as Most Valuable Player.

That kind of leadership was also in full display during the FIVB Women’s World Championship last year when she served as the glue that bonded Molina, Reyes, Jaja Santiago, Kim Fajardo, Jen Reyes and Jovelyn Gonzaga with the seven foreign players that resulted to a set win over champion Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul.

If Daquis would be given another chance, this team would definitely gain the kind of courage, the identity, the swag it is longing to have.

Myla Pablo

Photo courtesy of Noel Monzales, Volleyball PH

One of the few best players outside the national team, Pablo’s scoring prowess will definitely be a major boost to the team.

A good player with a good attitude, Vicente was said to be very serious in tapping Pablo for the national squad for being her former player at Philips Gold in the PSL.

They were also together during the Asian Seniors in Tianjin, China in 2015 where Pablo served as the chief gunner of head coach Sammy Acaylar.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go on as planned and Pablo was left sticking with her mother club, Pocari Sweat, in the Premier Volleyball League.

If and when the national squad raises the number of pool members back to 25, expect Pablo to be on top of the list.

Mar-Jana Philips

Photo courtesy of Philippine Superliga

It is no secret that the national squad is being groomed to stay for two more years with the 30th SEA Games in 2019 serving as its culminating tournament.

If that’s the case, it is definitely safe to say that Philips should get an invite.

A 6-foot Filipino-American spiker from Zambales, Philips burst into the scene as the powerful scorer for Sta. Lucia in the PSL.

Her connection with local setters may be a little bit awkward, but observers already noticed her power, timing and leaping ability that would definitely be a major boost to the Nationals.

She also emerged as the second top scorer in the previous PSL All-Filipino Conference despite the fact that she’s still learning the ropes of Filipino brand of volleyball.

Aside from that, her blocking is also on point, making her the perfect two-way player Vicente is longing to have.

If the Nationals are willing to invest one full year on her development, Philips would surely create waves in the international arena.

Jia Morado

Photo courtesy of Noel Monzales, Volleyball PH

Morado could have been a member of the national squad if not for an invitation that she failed to receive.

And the national squad paid a hefty price for it.

A setter gifted with high volleyball IQ, great court vision and superb attitude inside and outside the playing court, Morado perfectly fits the style of Asian volleyball.

Her playmaking is on point and could give the Japanese and Thais a run for their money if only she will be given more foreign exposure and training.

Her connection with main gunner Valdez is one of a kind and she’s no longer stranger to other teammates like Marano, Santiago and Gonzaga after serving as the playmaker in the Singapore SEA Games.

If and when Morado gets invited, the national team would have a fresh alternative to the playmaking style of Kim Fajardo and veteran Rhea Dimaculangan, leaving other countries guessing on how to defend the attacks.

Jasmine Nabor

Since it is clear that the national team is looking at a long-term goal, it is safe to say that Nabor should also get an invite.

Her road to becoming one of the country’s rising stars is one for the books.

Former National University coach Roger Gorayeb took a leap of faith and converted her from a spiker into a setter when veterans Ivy Perez and Aiza Soliven’s eligibility ran out.

Then, little by little, she learned the ropes until finally blossoming into a star.

That feel-good story is what the national team needs.

She may not see action in elite international tournaments with the presence of Fajardo, Dimaculangan and, possibly, Morado, but she would surely be a major help in age-group tourneys like the Asian U23 Women’s Championship and other minor battles while waiting for her biggest break.

Dindin Manabat

If there’s somebody who will surely get an invitation in the expanded national squad, it’s definitely Manabat.

She, in fact, was one of the country’s best players and brightest hope in the international arena until motherhood got into the way.

After giving birth, she tried to make a return and spearheaded Foton in the PSL Invitational Conference early this year.

But luck simply didn’t bounce her way.

She suffered an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury that sidelined her for the six to eight months.

Sources said she’s set to return in the Grand Prix late October, making her perfectly in shape when training camp opens, probably, by next year.

Her presence would definitely a major boost as the Nationals would have another tower at the net while serving as an explosive scorer next to Molina, Santiago, Valdez and, probably, Pablo, Philips and Tubino.

Lourdes Clemente

Clemente served as a mainstay in the national pool primarily due to her 6-foot-2 frame and knack for defense.

After seeing action in the Asian Seniors in 2015 in Tianjin, China, she tried her luck this year and fortunately made it to the 25-woman pool.

But it wasn’t meant to be.

She failed to survive the final cut as the national coaches opted to go for battle-ready middle hitters like Aby Marano, Maika Ortiz, Mika Reyes and the vastly improved Gen Casugod.

This time, Clemente should get another look.

And Clemente should work hard – especially on offense – to prove herself and make use of the golden opportunity that would be given to her if and when she gets another invite.

Elaine Kasilag

Photo courtesy of Nikki Collantes, Volleyball PH

Kasilag is another prized player who could have helped the Nationals if not for her club commitment.

She’s a tall attacker who can ease the scoring load off Valdez, Molina and, probably, Pablo and Philips.

Aside from that, she’s also superb on defense and can help in the blocking and digging departments.

If she gets an invite, expect her to give the mainstays a run for their money in the final 14-woman lineup.

Majoy Baron

Photo courtesy of Leo Lopez, Volleyball PH

 

This conversation would be worthless if we will not throw in the name of the reigning MVP of the UAAP into the mix.

Although she has yet to play in the international arena, Baron would definitely be a perfect fit for the national squad.

With the departure of Reyes from La Salle and F2 Logistics, the window of opportunity swung wide open for Baron as she carried La Salle to the UAAP title and powered F2 Logistics to a semifinal finish in the previous PSL All-Filipino Conference.

An intense training blocking and attacking under the guidance of a foreign mentor would definitely turn her into a beast, making her an important piece in the frontline of the national team when the country hosts the SEA Games in 2019.

Kath Arado

Photo courtesy of Leo Lopez, Volleyball PH

Arado is another rising star who should be included in the national pool.

After winning the Best Libero award in an elite tourney, the Princess Cup, in 2015, Arado barged into the radar of foreign scouts and coaches, prompting a Thai trainer to inquire about her during the recent SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.

With that in mind, Vicente, her college coach at University of the East, should give her an invitation to the pool right away.

Observers believe that she has what it takes to give Dawn Macandili and Denden Lazaro an extra hand at the backline and would play a vital role in the national squad not just for 2019, but also for the 2021 and 2023 SEA Games in Vietnam and Cambodia, respectively.

Ria Meneses

Photo courtesy of Kath Zamora, Volleyball PH

It is no secret that Meneses has what it takes to make it to the national pool.

A solid six-footer who can block and attack, Meneses cracked into the 25-woman pool of the LVPI early on, but faded into the limelight when other more experienced frontliners took over.

This time, she deserves another call.

Her stint with Petron in the PSL All-Filipino Conference proves that she’s more seasoned than she used to be and she would blend perfectly with other University of Santo Tomas mainstays in the roster, including her college coach in trainer Kungfu Reyes, and her former coaches at Generika-Ayala in Vicente and Nene Ybanez.