Two Philippine teams composed of the most potent present and future of the country’s crop of players with a barely two-month preparation under renowned Filipino coaches and a Brazilian with feathers in his cap square off at Nakhon Ratchasima’s Terminal 21 competition hall for the privilege of chalking up a first win.
Never mind if it’s going to be a battle of winless squads. But Rebisco and Choco Mucho were fielded in the 21st Asian Women’s Club Volleyball Championship to test their progress under a national team program of a reinvigorated national volleyball federation that’s not yet even a year old.
“It’s the national team program’s first test, maybe it’s not yet the acid test, but the players’ overall performance in the tournament will show that we are starting on the right foot,” said Ramon “Tats” Suzara, president of the Philippine National Volleyball Federation, which was duly-recognized as the sport’s national federation only in March this year.
This is not the PNVF’s first international sortie—beach volleyball teams were sent to compete also in Thailand in June and despite yielding similar results as their counterparts indoors, their performance gauged the needs for the national team program to progress.
“These are birth pains and baby steps,” Suzara said. “Because of the lockdowns that are going on for some 19 months now, these ladies haven’t had a single, serious international exposure.”
“But we’ll get there,” Suzara added. “What’s significant is that our coaches picked players who have the potential, skills and most importantly, the attitude and dedication to wear our country’s colors.”
Rebisco and Choco Mucho clash at 1:30 p.m. (Manila time) on Tuesday with the loser falling to seventh and last place in the seven-team championship and the winner, besides finally nailing a victory, gets to face Kazakhstan’s Zhetysu in the battle for fifth and sixth places on Thursday.
Power hitters Kalei Mau and Mylene Paat have been working hard for Choco Mucho, but a set still escapes the team of coach Odjie Mamon.
Mau and Paat were obviously the team’s main offensive options, more particularly in Choco Mucho’s 13-25, 22-25, 21-25 quarterfinals loss to Thailand’s Supreme Chonburi where they combined for 30 points.
Blocking was also Choco Mucho’s main arsenal with middles Ria Meneses and Dell Palomata taking turns in defending the net.
Dawn Macandili, touted as one of Asia’s best liberos, has what it takes on defense, while setter Deanna Wong has made an impact in her international debut.
Then there’s Iris Tolenada, Choco Mucho’s skipper, who has been rallying the team whether she’s on the floor orchestrating plays or on the bench.
Rising stars Ivy Lacsina, Faith Nisperos, Mhicaela Belen, Imee Hernandez, setter Kamille Cal, liberos Jennifer Nierva and Berndette Pepito are having their moments in their senior team debut for Rebisco, which is coming off a 11-25, 19-25, 18-25 quarterfinals defeat at the hands of Thai powerhouse Nakhon Ratchasima QminC VC.
Despite missing the opener due to health and safety protocols, skipper Aby Maraño and Eya Laure, who were part of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games team, as well as Dindin Santiago-Manabat provided leadership for Brazilian coach Jorge Edson Souza de Brito’s side.
Rebisco’s emergency additions Kianna Dy and Majoy Baron also gave significant contributions along the way.
Kazahkstan’s Altay will take on Iran’s Saipa and Nakhon Ratchasima battles Supreme in an all-Thailand duel in the semifinals on Tuesday.
The participation Choco Mucho and Rebisco in the continental club championships are supported by the Philippine Sports Commission, Rebisco, Taguig City Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano and Asics.