Sammy Acaylar, the Head Coach of perhaps the most successful men’s volleyball program in the country has been selected anew to be at the helm of the Philippine women’s team (once again dubbed as the Power Pinays) that will be seeing action in the upcoming Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) Women’s Club Volleyball Championship which will be held on April 17-24 at Nakhompathom, Thailand.
Acaylar—the University of Perpetual Help System DaLTa (UPHSD) mentor who has the longest active winning streak in all of collegiate sports with 47 consecutive triumphs and four straight NCAA men’s volleyball crowns for the Altas—will be on his second sortie to lead the distaff side in their quest for a firmer foothold in the Asian scene. The former De La Salle University (DLSU) men’s tactician—and present Head Coach of two-time Philippine Super Liga (PSL) finalist Cignal HD—was the top man for the “Bomberinas” in the old Philippine Volleyball Federation (PVF) effort to resurrect the national team last year. Despite the change in the leadership of the National Sports Association (NSA), Acaylar’s credentials speak for itself.
He also recently handled Team Manager duties for the PLDT Fibr Power Pinays that finished twelfth (and improving the Philippine’s Asian standing) in the 2013 AVC Asian Women’s Volleyball Championsip in Nakhor Ratchasima, Thailand and has been at the forefront of the three-day try-out process for the new women’s squad that allegedly saw more than sixty aspirants show up with the hopes of donning the national colors.
PVF Secretary General Rustico “Otie” Camangian also bared that the pool of 31 volleybelles will be trimmed down soon.
“The (selection) committee will come up with the final eighteen (players) after a two week period beginning today (February 3rd),” he disclosed in an email. “(The final eighteen will be known) just in time for the press conference (on February 14th) I suppose.”
From the eighteen that will remain, only ten will make the final line-up as there will be two slots reserved for imports. The positions of the desired reinforcements have yet to be determined.
The try-outs began last January 16th at the Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) gymnasium (ironically, the same school Acaylar’s Altas defeated in this year’s NCAA finals) and after a dismal turnout of merely nineteen showing up for the initial day, that numbered appeared to have multiplied over that weekend as the venue shifted to the Philippine Army gymnasium in Taguig City. I was not present at the final two days of the try-outs, but Power Pinays coaching staff members confirmed that the number had grown substantially since the opener.
While not all of the touted “best” players in the country were able to strut their wares during the process, Acaylar’s list, which he submitted to the PVF only last week, has a phalanx of some of the elite in the sport today (in alphabetical order):
Rapril AGUILAR U-SWU/Cignal HD*
Arriane ARGARIN S-UPHSD/Cignal HD*
Mary Jean BALSE M-UST/PA*
Angela BENTING O-AdU/PLDT MyDSL*
Rachel Anne DAQUIS O-FEU/PA*
Michelle DATUIN M-DLSU/Cignal HD*
Rhea DIMACULANGAN S-UST/PAF*
Angelique DIONELA L-UPHSD/Cignal HD*
Kimberly FAJARDO S-DLSU
Lizlee Ann GATA-PANTONE L-AdU/PLDT MyDSL*
Jovelyn GONZAGA U-CPU/PA*
Michelle LABORTE M-USLS/Petron*
Laurence Ann LATIGAY O-SSC/PLDT MyDSL
Rubie DE LEON S-UST/PLDT MyDSL*
Lilet MABBAYAD M-UST/RC Cola
Lutgarda MALALUAN M-FAITH/Cignal HD
Abigail MARAÑO M-DLSU
Janine MARCIANO O-SBC
Jannine NAVARRO O-CSB
Maika ORTIZ M-UST/PAF*
Jeanette PANAGA M-CSB
Abigail PRACA M-USJR/Cignal HD
Mika REYES M-DLSU
Suzanne ROCES U-UE/PLDT MyDSL*
Christine Joy ROSARIO M-AU
Shirley SALAMAGOS M-AU
Aleona SANTIAGO M-NU/Smart-Maynilad*
Alyja SANTIAGO M-NU*
Angeli TABAQUERO O-UST/Cagayan Valley*
Honey Royse TUBINO M-UPHSD/Cignal HD*
Alyssa VALDEZ O-AdMU*
*With previous national team experience
Camangian also revealed that while not all on the list made personal appearances during the three day “talent identification”, all 31 athletes have verbally committed to represent the country should they be selected. The PVF understood that scholastic commitments and league games prevented many from taking part in the process.
“The (coaching staff) put (the names) on the list,” Camangian clarified. “(Yung iba) hindi nag try-out due to the ongoing UAAP (referring to Valdez and the DLSU and National University students whose names appeared on the list) though nag-express ng intention to play for the national team in due time.”
This means that by the time the collegiate season ends (within the month), these players will be available to play for flag and country—should they be selected.
Like the final thirty in the men’s side, a few names are conspicuously absent from the pool.
At first glance, the names of veterans Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Tina Salak and Venus Bernal are surprisingly missing—even for late consideration. Among the younger players, liberos Jen Reyes, Melissa Gohing and Tyne Tadeo have also not been installed while known offensive weapons such as San Beda’s Frances Molina, Lady Spikers ace Ara Galang and Cebu’s Danika Gendrauli—who was a member of both the Bomberinas and the Power Pinays—are also not among those chosen.
“There will be many more opportunities later in the year to make the team stronger with some of the players who were not included in the list,” a coaching staff member pointed out. “For now, we’re satisfied with the pool. Ang hirap nga pagpilian kasi sampu lang ang kukunin sa final roster eh.”
It will also be up to Acaylar and his staff to choose the imports very soon. The tournament is just a little over two months away. This adds to their already unenviable task ahead.
“There will be training sessions to be conducted overseas before heading over to Thailand,” Camangian announced during the first day of the try-outs. “This will happen towards to end of February or so.”
PLDT HOME Broadband is backing both national teams and has even gone on to invest in being the title sponsor of the men’s event which will be held here on April 8-16.
“This is part of our advocacy to support sports and the development of the youth,” PLDT’s Gary Dujali said during the press conference of the tournament last January.
It will be interesting to know the identity of the eighteen that will advance to the next phase of the selection process and while the team that will head to Thailand will be joined by two imports and will be competing in a club championship, this is another gigantic step for Philippine volleyball.
So who do you think will be among the eighteen players that will comprise the Power Pinays by Valentine’s Day? It’s a new month; it’s also the dawn of a new hope.
Follow Noel Zarate on Twitter (@NoelZarate) and email firstname.lastname@example.org