With most talented national team, new era dawns for Philippine volleyball

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Last week, the Philippine Volleyball Federation (PVF) revealed the newest pool for the Philippine national volleyball team. The 18-woman roster was a result of three-day selection consisting of scrimmages and try-outs held at Ninoy Aquino Stadium.

The new team is expected to represent the country in the next year’s Southeast Asian Games in Singapore. It is still a long wait until the June 5 opening of the SEA Games, but the Philippine volleyball community already has high hopes that the new roster will finally give our country a fighting chance.

It may be too early to judge but by the looks of it, the new roster of volleyball players is the strongest lineup we can come up with. This is definitely a team we can be proud of.

For the first time, the PVF has managed to combine this generation’s Philippine volleyball superstars into a team. It has been possible because of the more organized and timely selection process. At the same time, there are more players who have joined the try-outs.

This is not to put down the selections done in the past. The short-lived “Bomberinas” and the “Power Pinays” were solid in their own right but there’s something lacking in their roster. Further, various issues plagued the volleyball administration during that time. It was simply not the right time.

This year’s pool is a different story. Physically, the team is taller compared to past national teams. Excluding the liberos, the average height of the players is 5-foot-10. The tallest is National University’s middle blocker Jaja Santiago at 6-foot-4 followed by her sister Dindin at 6-foot-2. Height is still an integral factor in volleyball. A taller team will have better chances at success when pitted against international squads.

Of the 18 players, 11 are former and current Most Valuable Players winners of their respective leagues. From Ging Balse, the inaugural Shakey’s V-League MVP, to current top players such as Alyssa Valdez, Jovelyn Gonzaga, and Dindin Santiago, this roster is just oozing with talent.

The three liberos Lizlee Ann Gata-Pantone, Jen Reyes, and Denden Lazaro monopolize the best receiver and best digger awards in local tournaments. Veteran Tina Salak, Rhea Dimaculangan, and Kim Fajardo are considered the top setters in our country today. The coaches will have a hard time choosing the national team’s first six.

Of course, individual skills do necessarily equate to a solid lineup. Volleyball, after all, is a team sport. When we talk about the aspect of teamwork, this team is pretty solid too. 15 players in this current roster were former national team members. Team play because they have played alongside each other before.

Here’s another interesting point: Eight out of the team’s core comes from the UST volleyball program. Even if these players have long parted ways, the foundation and roots will surely be significant as they regroup again in one team.

This team is younger compared to past teams. The average age of the players is 23 years old. In fact, as part of the preparations for the SEA Games, the core team of the newly-formed national team is expected to represent the country in the Asian Under-23 Women’s Volleyball Championships that the Philippines will be hosting in May 2015. Age is a factor if we want to have a long term program for volleyball.

The team will be coached by Ramil De Jesus, who is responsible for ushering an era of dominance for the De La Salle Lady Spikers in the UAAP. He has eight UAAP titles under his cap since he started coaching the Taft Lady Spikers in 1999. In the 2005 edition of the SEA Games, he coached the women’s national team and earned bronze opposite Asian powerhouses Thailand and Vietnam.

The landscape is ripe for Philippine volleyball. The Philippines is now up at 63rd, from 101st place in the FIVB senior world women’s rankings. There is solid support from fans. There are private institutions that are willing to help the program. The community is hoping that this new development will pave the way for a new era for Philippine volleyball.

This is a team we can be proud of. If the team move beyond the hype and work hard to realize their end goal, we are indeed on our way closer to volleyball supremacy once again.

Source : Yvan Limson, GMA News

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