Cignal put an end to numerous speculations when it formally appointed Edgar Barroga as its new head coach in the Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix that kicks off on Feb. 17.
Barroga is no stranger to the HD Spikers.
He, in fact, is also the incumbent team manager, so it was only fitting for the management to decide that he should serve as head coach, making him the third rookie mentor in the 2018 season of the most prestigious club league in the country.
Prior to his appointment, Foton tapped three-time Premier Volleyball League (PVL) champion Rommel Abella while Generika-Ayala appointed Ateneo de Manila University assistant coach Sherwin Meneses as its new tactician.
Despite being new as head coach, Barroga vowed to hit the ground running since he had already identified the strengths and weaknesses of his team in his capacity as team manager last year.
He is the league’s very first team manager to act as head coach at the same time.
“This is a major challenge and a big responsibility for me.”
“We know that Cignal is in a rebuilding stage so we have to temper our expectations. But this team has a lot of promises. Do not be surprised if we come up with a very good fight against the elite teams of the league.”
But being a rookie is only on paper.
Compared to Abella and Meneses, Barroga is already overflowing with experience after playing as middle blocker for the national team from 1987 to 1990, where he won the gold medal in an invitational tournament in Sarawak, Malaysia.
He is also the head coach of National University (NU) boys team as well as the Rizal Technological University (RTU) in the National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU).
Last year, he was tapped to serve as assistant of Shaq Delos Santos in the PSL All-Star team in the 2017 Annual Princess Maja Chakri Sirindhorn’s Cup in Sisaket, Thailand.
The PSL stars made history as they became the first local team to punch a bronze medal in an invitational tourney in Thailand.
Cignal remains a work in progress.
Aside from head coach George Pascua and assistant coach Michelle Laborte, standouts like Royse Tubino, Paneng Mercado and Chie Saet decided to bolt out while Mylene Paat re-joined Adamson University and Jovelyn Gonzaga and Janine Marciano crashed with knee injuries.
With that, only Rachel Anne Daquis, Cherry Vivas and Jheck Dionela were left while Renelyn Sante, Shirley Salamagos and Janine Navarro were recruited from Sta. Lucia Realty and Acy Masangkay from Generika-Ayala.
Former Army mentor Rico de Guzman — a two-time champion in the PSL — also joined the HD Spikers as assistant coach aside from high-flying Jeane Horton of United States and Sonja Milanovic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who will arrive on Friday.
Still, Barroga sees a ray of sunshine in their campaign.
“I see a lot of positive signs in our first two practices.”
“Rachel remains very vocal on the court and her leadership is very impressive. She’s my extension on the court and she’s leading her younger teammates by example.”
“I also like my import (Horton) a lot. She has great attitude and blends well with our locals. She’s in the process of developing good chemistry with the rest of the team.”
Barroga added that de Guzman provides him a lot of help.
Insiders revealed that the hiring of de Guzman is Cignal’s answer to Cocolife, which slid a champion coach in Kungfu Reyes to assistant after acquiring Moro Branislav of Serbia.
“With coach Rico around, it’s like having two coaches at the same time.”
“Coach Rico is a champion coach. I’m sure he would contribute a lot in tactical preparation, adjustments and decision-making during actual matches. This Cignal team remains pretty strong despite losing some key players.”
But Barroga played down the speculations.
“We know that Cignal is a contender every year. So we have to work doubly hard to live above expectations. Coaching the team is a major challenge for me. But I’m ready for it.”