In a bid to end a long medal drought, the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) sent the national women’s volleyball team to a training camp in Japan in preparation for the country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games.
The government’s funding arm for sports, through its chairman William “Butch” Ramirez and the board of commissioners, doled out a total of P1.7 million to subsidize the 12-day camp meant to boost the squad for the prestigious biennial meet from November 30 to December 11.
The squad left for the Japanese capital of Tokyo on Saturday, where it will test its mettle against prominent club teams like Kashiwa Angel Cross, Yamanashi Chuo Bank, Gunma Bank Green Wings, and Hitachi.
The Nationals would also clash with collegiate teams like Nittai University and Aoyama University.
“We know that Japan is the gold standard in Asian volleyball. They may not be tall, but they are quick, tactical and very disciplined,” said Ramirez, who used to be a basketball coach at Ateneo de Davao University before leading the government sports agency.
“That’s why we’re throwing our all-out support to this training camp. We feel that with just the right training program and exposure winning a medal in the SEA Games will be very possible,” he added
Despite its massive popularity, the women’s volleyball team has yet to stand out in the international arena.
After winning a bronze medal in the 23rd SEA Games in Bacolod City in 2005, the Nationals failed to join in the next four stagings of the meet before making a return in the 28th edition in Singapore in 2015 and the 29th edition in Kuala Lumpur in 2017.
This time, the Nationals have a golden chance of winning, not only because the tournament will be held in the country, but also because of the emergence of some top-tier talents like Filipino-American spiker Kalei Mau and middle blocker Majoy Baron.
Mau announced her arrival with a strong performance in the ASEAN Grand Prix while Baron emerged as the Best Blocker when the country clinched the bronze medal in the first leg in Nakhon Ratchasima in Thailand and the second leg in Sta. Rosa in Laguna.
Aside from Mau and Baron, also part of the trip are veterans Mika Reyes, Jovelyn Gonzaga, Aby Maraño, Frances Molina, Alyssa Valdez, Rhea Dimaculangan, Dawn Macandili, Mylene Paat.
Also included were rising stars Maddie Madayag, Eya Laure, Kat Arado and Jia Morado.
Shaq Delos Santos is the head coach with Kungfu Reyes and Brian Esquibel as deputies.
Valdez and Morado, however, are expected to fly back on Friday to join Creamline in its semifinal battle in the Premier Volleyball League Open Conference while the whole team will be back on November 1, just in time for the Philippine Superliga Super Cup where they would face two select local teams and a university team from Japan.
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