After a decade’s absence in regional volleyball, our Philippine lady spikers finally got the chance to show their wares in the 28th SEA Games in Singapore. Bannered by Alyssa Valdez, the reigning MVP in the last Shakey’s Open, the cast included such big names as Rachel Anne Daquis, Jaja Santiago, Dindin Santiago Manabat, Juvy Gonzaga, and Aby Marano; veterans Rhea Dimaculangan and Myka Ortiz; plus upcoming volleybelles Jia Morado, Gretch Soltones, Bea De Leon and Denden Lazaro. The star-studded line-up stamped its growing popularity by bringing in hordes of fans to the stadium hoping for a happy result.
But things were simply not to be. The lack of international/regional experience clearly showed as the bangers of Indonesia and Vietnam unceremoniously showed our girls the exit door.
Coach Roger Gorayeb hit it right on the head when he singled out the the late organization of the team and the lack of international experience as the bane in our campaign. For us to have creditable podium finishes, we must organize the team earlier and have them undergo gruelling training together sooner. And we should provide the team more support by way of regional forays to pit them against the taller, more grizzled players from other countries.
I will even go one step further. Remember the offers for Alyssa and Jaja Santiago to play in foreign leagues after the U23 tourney in Manila? I believe they should be allowed to do so. Club and collegiate coaches should set aside their own interests and instead prioritize the players’ exposure and training. Ultimately, a year’s absence from the local volleyball scene will provide them a wealth of international experience, and this will parlay into a higher level of competition for our local leagues. Our stars will be far better served learning new facets in the game, collecting bruises and eating humble pie, in foreign tourneys and match-ups.
I believe that we have what it takes to be a superpower in women’s volleyball in much the same way that Thailand is now among the world’s best. Thais have basically the same physique, the same temperament as Pinoys, and given the same exposure their ladies have had, I don’t see any reason why our ladies cannot compete. In time, we can have our own ladies display their wares proudly as imports in international competitions. Just like Patcharee and Soraya and Wanida and Kannika and the rest of the Thai imports who have no doubt helped a lot to upgrade the level of play in the local leagues.
It is only by giving our players more foreign exposure that we can regain the stature we once held as the queens of volleyball this side of the woods. And how to start all that? Let’s stop the selfish interests, stop the sports politics, and focus on simply providing the best for our players. We need to guide them, inspire them, provide for them, so that they may attain greater stature worthy of emulation for the generations to come.
(Pics courtesy of rappler.com, spin.ph, fastbreak.com.ph, pinoythaiyo.com, twitter.com, interaksyon.com, gettyimages.ae, arvin lim)