Vicente unveils ‘Dream Team’

After a week of drama, tension and speculations, the ‘Dream Team’ of Philippine volleyball is finally complete.

National women’s volleyball team head coach Francis Vicente formally announced the final 18-woman roster of the team headed for the AVC Asian Senior Women’s Club Championship in Manila and the 29th Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur this August.

Seasoned international campaigners Rachel Anne Daquis and Jovelyn Gonzaga of Cignal and Aiza Maizo-Pontillas of Petron banner the star-studded squad that is a mixture of youth, experience, ceiling and firepower that could lead to a podium finish in the biennial meet.

Also safely in are Denden Lazaro of Cocolife, Aby Marano, Kim Fajardo, Dawn Macandili of F2 Logistics, Frances Molina, Marivic Meneses, Mika Reyes and Rhea Dimaculangan of Petron, Maika Ortiz and Jaja Santiago of Foton, Lourdes Clemente of Sta. Lucia, Gen Casugod and Kathleen Arado, and Roselle Baliton of Generika-Ayala.

Alyssa Valdez of Creamline was also added after personally reaching out to Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. (LVPI) and Vicente to express her eagerness to be part of the team.

Valdez, the former Ateneo star who served as the country’s flag-bearer in the previous SEA Games, was on the verge of being cut after showing up only once in the past five training sessions and missing the Clash of Heroes, the highly-important event that serves as the final leg of national tryouts.

Fortunately, she reached out and patched things up with Vicente.

“The coaches voted. She reached out to Mr. Cayco, we talked and deliberated about her inclusion. In the deliberation, she still had high number of votes.”
“It’s not me who decided. It’s everybody.”

The names of newly appointed national team members would be forwarded to the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) for funding.

They are expected to come up with a rigorous training, including a training camp in Japan from July 18 to 31, to brace for tough battles ahead.

“We expect to learn a lot from our Japanese counterparts.”

“We want to develop speed, skills and power. It’s going to be a good exposure for the players, the coaches and everybody involved.”

Impressed

But the most stunning revelation was the selection of Reyes as team captain.

Reyes, the former La Salle star, was not a candidate for team captain and yet was surprisingly picked by Vicente after an impressive performance in the training camp.

It is Reyes’ third consecutive selection to the national team.

Last year, she was part of the PSL-Manila squad that represented the country in the prestigious FIVB Women’s Club World Championship. She was also drafted to join the Rebisco-PSL Manila side that will campaign in the AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship in Kazakhstan next week.

The squad leaves this Sunday.

She also displayed her talent in the Clash of Heroes, powering the Pilipinas-Blue squad to a come-from-behind win in against the stronger Pilipinas-Red side.

Vicente said Reyes’ positive attitude and work ethic gave her an edge over other candidate for team captain like Maizo-Pontillas, Daquis, Fajardo and Valdez.

“The moment I saw her on training, I was very impressed.”
“So when we voted about it during deliberation, she got the highest number of votes. I didn’t know that other coaches are also impressed by per performance in weekly training.”

Vicente added that Reyes remains unaware that she had been selected.

“She doesn’t know it yet.”
“This is a surprise. She will surely be surprised when she learns the news that she would be our team captain.”

Fighting team

Vicente added that the team he assembled would fight until the end.

He said they are willing to sacrifice and work hard just to come up with a podium finish in the SEA Games, where the country finished with a lowly fifth-place in the 2015 edition.

In fact, Vicente is ready to work double time and take a leave from his coaching job at UE just to attend the morning and afternoon training sessions.

“I am ready to sacrifice my job at UE.”
“This is a fighting team. I’m not promising anything, but this team will fight for the country until the end.”

He added that jelling and chemistry would never be a problem as this collection of stars is already used to playing with each other in the university and club levels.

“I was surprised when I saw them play together in training. They play seamlessly and adjusted easily to each other. Parang matagal ng magkakasama.”

Vicente said now that the ‘Dream Team’ has been formed, it’s now time to do the most important thing – buckle down to work.

And they are ready to win whatever it takes.