Acaylar gives MJ impressive grade

Thursday, 08 Jun 2017
Julius Manicad - Chief Correspondent - @JCManicad
Photo courtesy of Philippine Superliga

For the past several weeks, Sta. Lucia head coach Sammy Acaylar keeps on harping about his new player – Filipino-American MJ Phillips.

But after her first game, it appears that the hype is worth it.

Phillips delivered an impressive performance in the Lady Realtors’ nail-biter of a loss to powerhouse Cignal, 25-19, 18-25, 13-25, 25-23, 12-15, in the Rebisco-Philippine Superliga (PSL) All-Filipino Conference Thursday at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.

She was a spark plug on both ends, delivering 10 kills, five blocks and an ace for a total of 16 points while Danika Gendrauli chipped in 15 for the Lady Realtors who nearly pulled a massive upset of the reigning titlist of the Invitational Conference.

And it didn’t escape Acaylar’s attention.

He was quite impressed – actually, very impressed.

“Mar-jana is very good.”
“From the start kasi hindi ko sya masyadong inaasahan because I know she’s just new here in the country.”
“She has the character to play, she doesn’t have any pressure. She is very good.”

Ultimate target

Acaylar revealed that aside from leading the Lady Realtors to the title, Phillips has fixed her eyes on an ultimate prize.

“She has that ambition to play for our national team.”
“This is like a major tryout for her. She wants to create an impression that she can stand on her own against the veteran players of the league.”

True enough, Phillips made life difficult for the HD Spikers, especially to national team mainstays Jovelyn Gonzaga and Rachel Anne Daquis.

In one heart-stopping sequence, Phillips blocked Daquis’ attack thrice before Lourdes Clemente connected an easy kill off a gift.

Cignal coach George Pascua admitted that the blocking of the Lady Realtors, especially Phillips, threw them off their comfort zone.

“We were rattled with their blocking.”
“That’s why I told my team to speed up our attacks to neutralize the blocking ability of the Lady Realtors.”

Great debut

With her impressive debut, Acaylar gave Phillips a very good rating.

“She’s 8 out of 10.”
“She still has to work on her receive. During our training, she admitted that she’s still adjusting with her receive so it’s something we’re still working on.”
“But her spiking is already very good. It just so happens that she still has some little lapses, but overall, it’s tolerable. She’s very good.”

Acaylar said it would take two more games before the Phillips full potential will be unraveled.

“Two more games.”
“We’re still working on her spiking and receive. We’re still developing her approach and swinging of arms. But after two games, she’ll be okay.”
“She’s still a work in progress.”

Acaylar smiled as he was about to wrapped up the interview.

They may have lost the match, but he definitely found a pot of gold in Phillips.