The glamorous Philippine women’s volleyball team may look like it has never looked like before: A squad without its stars.
It may be a shock to fans of the game that has enjoyed a rejuvenation in the country, but for the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF), it is a chance to change the volleyball landscape here.
With the stars failing to show up on Wednesday’s tryouts in Subic, PNVF president Ramon “Tats” Suzara said he won’t give another chance to players who didn’t bother to come, this despite the 130 invitations the sport’s body had issued for the men’s, women’s and beach volley teams.
The tryouts will run until Friday.
“Why? Don’t tell me the national team can’t be formed without Alyssa (Valdez) and other [star] players,” Suzara told the Inquirer. “We have to effect change in Philippine volleyball.”
Suzara said the PNVF is looking at the prospects of tapping young players to make up the women’s team.
“Much better, because they don’t have horns yet,” Suzara said in Filipino.
Unlike the drama-filled national women’s team, the men’s team is largely quiet despite the fact that one of its stars, Bryan Bagunas, is also skipping the tryouts.
Other women’s team stars like Kim Fajardo, Myla Pablo, Kim Dy, Denden Lazaro, Dawn Macandili, Jia Morado, Maddie Madayag and Kat Tolentino also didn’t show.
Suzara said the concerns of most of the players could have been the requirement to undergo reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests before joining the tryouts.
“We are strict, no RT-PCR test, no inclusion in the tryouts,” he said. “All must have negative swab test results.”
The PNVF invited 40 women to the tryouts, but only 16 showed up.
Among those who showed up at Subic gym were 6-foot-5 middle blocker Jaja Santiago, who recently helped the Saitama Ageo Medics to the Japanese V.Cup title, and national team veterans Aby Maraño, Mary Joy Baron and Mylene Paat.
Maraño and Baron on Tuesday underwent RT-PCR tests at Mall of Asia arranged by the PNVF.
Also present were Eya Laure, Iris Tolenada, Ria Meneses, Dell Palomata, Kamille Cal, Mhicaela Belen, Ivy Lacsina, Alyssa Solomon, Jennifer Nierva, Faith Nisperos, Imee Hernandez and Bernadette Pepito.
Santiago, Laure and Paat—who are teammates at Chery Tiggo—even wore red personal protective equipment during the drills.
A 17th player, Sta. Lucia’s MJ Phillips, would’ve joined the tryouts but she was forced into quarantine after a member of her club’s staff tested positive for COVID-19.
For the past three Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and the Asian Games in Jakarta in 2018, the Philippines has been represented by the biggest names in the sport. But it didn’t translate to good results.
In the last SEA Games held in Manila, the women’s team wound up fifth, while the unheralded men’s team copped the silver medal capped by its semifinal victory over regional heavyweight Thailand.
Of the 17 players who have confirmed participation in the women’s team tryouts, 11 of them are collegiate team players.
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