PH volleyball may join Asiad, the Power Pinays’ imports and one zillion volleyball updates

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After a spending a better portion of the afternoon and early evening taking in the training sessions of the two national teams being formed by the interim leadership of the Philippine Volleyball Federation (PVF), I picked up quite a few new bits of information that I can pass on for general consumption.

#1: The national team aspirants’ list will be trimmed to 18 within next week, all 18 for both squads will train overseas

The remaining hopefuls for slots in the upcoming Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) Club Volleyball Championships will be trimmed down to eighteen members which will now compose the final pool of participants in both the men’s tournament—which will be held here in the Philippines on April 8-16 (and supported by PLDT HOME Fibr)—and the women’s event—which takes place on April 17-25 in Nakhompathom, Thailand—as from the final cuts, the official rosters will emerge.

This was one of the revelations of PVF President Karl Chan in a surprise visit to the squads’ rigorous undertaking at the renowned Rizal Memorial Coliseum in Manila.

“Once the teams have been trimmed down to eighteen, their names will now form the final pool from which we will be extracting the rosters,” the youthful Tacloban native stressed. “In short, the final eighteen will all train together overseas in preparation for the tournaments.”

This includes a fortnight stop in Korea for both the men’s and women’s contingents, as well as a pocket tournament in Thailand for the women’s squad before heading over to the AVC tilt.

“We intend to maximize the international exposure of our national teams and this will be the first of many to come, God willing,” Chan added.

#2: The Philippines may be granted volleyball slots in the Incheon Asiad this September

Chan also spoke of the formation of a task force created by the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) that is presently seeking an audience with the various National Sports Associations (NSAs) to study the viability of sending representatives of its sports to the upcoming Asian Games in Incheon, Korea. Chan said that he is scheduled to meet with no less than POC Chairman Tom Carrasco himself within the next few days to explore the possibility of sending two national teams to the meet.

“There is a good chance that the Philippines will be seeing action in the volleyball competitions of the Asiad and the POC might just make this happen,” he said. “I will still have to meet with Mr. Carrasco, but this is another positive development for the sport.”

This also means that the Philippines will be mixing it up with world super powers such as Thailand, Japan, China as well as the host nation Korea in both the men’s and women’s divisions this September. It has been a long time since the country took part in the Asian Games’ volleyball competitions and with the process of putting together a solid national team already in motion, the PVF still has enough time to make a more than competitive squad ready for the plunge.

The Philippines participation in Incheon will also carry much needed FIVB ranking points to further boost the placing of the country both in Asia and the world and must not be taken lightly. The more touted Southeast Asian (SEA) Games do not count in the FIVB tabulation, hence the Asian Games stint is one that should be targeted.

#3: Veterans from Japan and Central America have been tapped to reinforce the Power Pinays

As the women’s squad will be battling in the AVC Club tilt, rules allow for each country to elicit the help of at least two imports. These imports will join the official roster of fourteen for the tournament, but only twelve will be allowed to play during a given match.

For Power Pinays Head Coach Sammy Acaylar, he is already quite certain about the identity of his first import.

“We’ve always maintained that we will seek a foreign setter to not only help us win, but show us a different dimension in volleyball,” the reigning champion mentor of both the men’s and women’s program of the University of Perpetual Help System DaLTa (UPHSD) disclosed. “I’m proud to say that the setter we chose will be no stranger to Filipinos as she has already played here recently. Our foreign setter is Japan’s Misao Tanyama.”

It will be recalled that the left-handed Tanyama, 35, suited up for the Petron Blaze Spikers in the recently concluded Philippine Super Liga (PSL) Grand Prix and this veteran of many Japanese V-League battles will now be orchestrating to a phalanx of the best volleybelles in the archipelago.

“She’s good,” Power Pinays aspirant Mic-Mic Laborte (Tanyama’s teammate at Petron) said. “Pati ako nakapalo pag siya nagseset, eh. Malaking bagay siya sa team.”

The supposed second import’s identity caught me off guard, though, as divulged by a team official later on.
“Misao will be arriving in the country on March 1 to join the team,” the official said. “The second import should fly in about a week later. Her name is Regla Bell.”

Regla Bell was a member (and one time skipper) of the Cuban women’s team that dominated the volleyball world during the 1990s to the early part of the new millennium; winning three Olympic gold medals (Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney), two of its three world championships and two FIVB Grand Prix crowns, the last of which was claimed here in the Philippines in 2000. Her famed teammates on that squad include Meriya Luis, Marlenys Costa, Ana Fernandez and Regla Torres.

She also played in the European club scene after her stint with Cuba, joining Italian squads Napoli and Perugia and spent a majority of the next decade in Spain’s Superliga Femenina de Voleibol where in 2009 became the oldest player in league history to win the MVP trophy at the age of 39 while seeing action for Ciudad Las Palmas Gran Canaria Cantur.

The 5’11” lefty may be 43 now, but she is said to still bring the same fire in her game and may just strike fear against the opposition who respect her body of work.

Bell will be a big boost to the program and the transfer of technology from an Olympic champion will be invaluable.

#4: The Power Pinays line-up will be finalized after the ongoing UAAP season

While the attendance of the men’s team has been consistently good, the women’s squad has had a fluctuating turnout. When I dropped in, only six were ready to play while two showed up to just keep abreast of the latest drills. The truth also is that the UAAP players of have offered a verbal indication that they will make themselves available for the endeavour have not yet practiced once—which totally understandable seeing at which the tournament is at. In a previous article, I wrote that three playrs from La Salle, two players from the National University and one player from Ateneo had their names listed on the pool of 31. Apparently, Acaylar wants to make certain about the six ladies’ decision before coming out with his trimmed down version of the roster. Since the distaff side will have their event more than a full week after the men, he has time.

“I just want to know if they can really commit to the program before I include them,” he said. “Sayang naman kasi kung isama yung pangalan nila tapos hindi rin pala sila makakapag-commit, eh di I will give the slot to those who have been working hard here daily.”

The six ladies in playing garb were College of St. Benilde enigma Jannine Navarro, former UST ace Lilet Mabbayad, feisty libero Jheck Dionela and Philippine Army standouts Mary Jean Balse, Rachel Anne Daquis and reigning Shakey’s V-League MVP Jovelyn Gonzaga. Cignal HD skipper Michelle Datuin and “Defensive Demigod” Laborte showed up towards the end of the workout in street clothes.

Some members of the coaching staff have been impressed and pleasantly surprised at Navarro’s performance over the whole process.

“She (Navarro) has a strong chance to be included,” the coaching staff member said of the 5’10” opener of the Lady Blazers.

“I really want to form a very, very strong team,” Acaylar announced. “The pool is strong enough as it is now, and I can make a very good team from what we have now, but I really want a very, very strong team.”

The decision will still fall on Lady Eagle Alyssa Valdez, the Santiago sisters of the Lady Bulldogs and Lady Spikers Abigail Maraño, Kim Fajardo and Mika Reyes if they may still spread themselves to join the team—prestigious as it may be.

I will write more about the three hours I spent with the men’s team in my next piece.

Follow Noel Zarate on Twitter (@NoelZarate) and email sportztackle@yahoo.com
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