In a far cry from the 34 aspirants who attended the first day of try-outs for the Philippine men’s volleyball team, on eighteen hopefuls came to the Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) gymnasium in Manila for the initial salvo to find members to compete in the Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) Women’s Club Championship which will be held from April 17-24 in Nakhompathom, Thailand.
“I’m quite surprised at the number we have,” uttered Philippine Volleyball Federation (PVF) Secretary General Rustico “Otie” Camangian as he arrived at the venue well after the prearranged 7:00PM supposed start of the proceedings.
“I’m just hoping because of this being held on a weekday is the reason we have such a small turnout. Being part of the national team should be a great honor. Sana dumami pa sila sa Day 2,” he said.
The try-outs—conducted by former national team mentor Sammy Acaylar assisted directly by Philippine Super Liga (PSL) two-time champion coach Rico de Guzman of the TMS-Philippine Army—went on despite there being only one registered setter and one identified utility-spiker.
“Yung mga player ko (in the Lady Troopers squad) karamihan may duty hanggang 10PM,” de Guzman pointed out. “Siguradong dadating lahat yun sa susunod na session.”
The next two try-out dates are slated on January 18 and 19 with the venue being the Philippine Army gymnasium in Taguig City.
“Some of the players have work that’s why we chose to schedule the try-outs in the evening,” Acaylar said. “But still konti pa rin. I hope they all show up on Saturday.”
Three members of the Power Pinays that saw action in the 2013 AVC Asian Women’s Volleyball Championship managed to show up—quite early as well. Skipper Angge Tabaquero and liberos Jheck Dionela and Lizlee Ann Gata-Pantone (who had just arrived in Manila from Bicol earlier in the day) led the ladies as once again a full complement of coaches and officials from the PVF and from team backer PLDT seemed to outnumber the participants.
Other notable names that showed their initial commitment were Abby Praca, Rap-Rap Aguilar, Lutgarda Malaluan and Lilet Mabbayad (Cignal HD in the PSL), former national team mainstay Mic-Mic Laborte (Petron), San Beda star Janine Marciano and College of St. Benilde libero Rica Enclona.
Here is the full list of participants on Day 1:
Rapril Aguilar –U—SWU
Arianna Angustia – M—EAC
Jane Barrero –S—CSB
Jennifer Caballero –L—EAC
Angelique Dionela –L—UPHSD
Rica Enclona –L—CSB
Lizlee Ann Gata-Pantone –L—AdU
Marjorie Katigbak –O—CSB
Michelle Laborte –M—USLS
Maureen Loren –M—CSB
Lilet Mabbayad –M—UST
Lutgarda Malaluan –M—FAITH
Janine Marciano –O—SBC
Ranya Musa –M—CSB
Jannine Navarro –O—CSB
Jeanette Panaga –M—CSB
Abigail Praca –M—USJ-R
Angeli Tabaquero –O—UST
As expected, the current national team athletes stood out from the field as they displayed the stuff that got them there. Gata-Pantone seamlessly dug up every shot that came her way, while Dionela was still cat-quick around the court. Needless to say, Tabaquero bombed away at the defenses; even those erected by Laborte, the “Defensive Demigod” herself. Laborte did have her fair share of highlights during the scrimmages and once again brought “intimidation” factor against her much younger opposition.
The Cebuano pair of Praca and Aguilar showed that they had already levelled-up as far as their court prowess goes. Fresh off a runner-up finish in the recently concluded PSL Grand Prix, both breathed fire into the session and hardly broke a sweat getting the job done.
Some audience members actually began talking about Praca’s choice of playing attire as it looked like she was attending a dance rehearsal instead of a national team try-out. She stylishly still managed to pull it off.
Marciano was the expected bright spot among the walk-ons. Her apparent lack of height did not stop her from spiking from all angles and also showed a few Tabaquero-like defensive moves in the back row as well. The graduating Lioness is already touted to be a top five pick in the upcoming PSL Rookie Draft and she made sure she did not disappoint during the try-outs. TMS-Philippine Army assistant coach Emilio “Kung Fu” Reyes (who was among the phalanx of coaches handling the process) even remarked that he hoped Marciano would still be available in the latter portion of the Draft when it would be Lady Troopers’ turn to pick. De Guzman instantly turned to him and said, “Malabo na yan,” indicating what is more likely to be a reality.
Enclona also held her own against the two national team liberos and—if she declares for the Draft—could be a steal for her underrated floor patrolling skills.
However, the revelations were the solid performances turned in by the Lady Blazers’ tandem of quicker Jeanette Panaga and 5’11” outside hitter Jannine Navarro as even their basic serves felt like offensive weapons. Some of the members of the coaching staff began taking down notes when the two were on the floor and they just could be considered for a call-back.
While no cuts were made, Acaylar appeared somewhat fulfilled as the first try-out day came to an end.
“We saw some good performances,” he said. “This is a good start.”
While it is already a given that the number of participants for the second try-out date on Saturday will be considerably bigger (being a weekend), I asked some federation officials if they may go to the option of creating a team even though some of those in their “wishlist” do not even show up for the process.
“That could be a possibility, but I hope it could be avoided,” a PVF official said.
And later on, my question was given a direct answer by Mr. Gil Garcia, PLDT Vice President for Finance as he addressed the volleybelles at the end of the session.
“If some players choose not to be here, then we cannot support them,” the vibrant PLDT officer stated. “By being here today, you have committed to serve your country and we will invest in your efforts.”
I guess that’s a more than subliminal call for those who want to don the national colors to be present at the try-outs beginning on Saturday.
The PVF is making it an OPEN TRY-OUT; meaning ANYONE who has at least been a varsity player for their school can come and participate. Who knows, right? Panaga and Navarro turned many heads today with their great showing, even if they weren’t on anyone’s watchlist. I’m quite sure the coaches are looking to be surprised this weekend.
Camangian once again stressed the pride one must feel when wearing the Philippine flag above one’s chest. Many say that a lot of athletes nowadays have grown numb to that sensation. Let’s hope that that is not the case with women’s volleyball.
Gilas Pilipinas Head Coach Chot Reyes once shared with me something that I will always remember. He said:
“The first step to success is to show up. By showing up, you’ve already bested a lot of other people who could be better than you. They’re not here, but you are. So congratulations for taking the first step to success. It really wasn’t that hard, right?”
How hard can it be?
Photo Credit : Sam Santana
Article by Noel Zarate / Click Yahoo Philippines Article Here