AS expected, Alyssa Valdez and the Santiago sisters Dindin and Jaja, lead the 18-woman pool named by coach Roger Gorayeb to make up the PH Under-23 team competing in the Asian Women’s Volleyball Championship next month.
Valdez and the Santiago siblings will be joined in the team by Ateneo setter Jia Morado, Bea de Leon, and Jhoanna Maraguinot. La Salle setter Kim Fajardo and Lady Spikers middle blocker Mika Reyes also made the roster.
Completing the cast are Gretcel Soltones (San Sebastian), National University’s Myla Pablo, Arellano’s Christine Rosario, Far Eastern University libero Tin Agno, the Perpetual Help-Biñan duo of Ellaine Kasilag and Macy Mendiola, and the San Sebastian duo of Alyssa Eroa and Vira Guillema.
On Monday, only Valdez, Ateneo setter Jia Morada and University of Santo Tomas pair Menessa and EJ Laure were were present at Blue Eagle gym in Ateneo for the team's first practice.
But the pride of San Juan, Batangas is excited to see other players join the practices.
"Madami pang madadagdag na characters sa team so masaya, masaya. Sobrang nakaka-excite talaga," said Valdez. "Parang summer class lang 'yan, yung mga magiging classmates mo 'yung hindi mo regular na kaklase."
The pool will be trimmed to its final 12 before the May 1-9 event at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
Assisting Gorayeb are Ateneo Thai mentor Tai Bundit (assistant coach), and Edjet Mabbayad, Gorayeb's assistant coach at National University who acts as team trainer.
Valdez, the reigning UAAP MVP, welcomed the competition for places in the team as well as the opportunity to learn from other players and coaches.
"Syempre masaya kasi magkakaroon ng healthy competition," said Valdez. "Matututo ka sa kanila, matututo sila sayo and si coach Tai sobrang transparent niya naman, lahat iniintindi niya so sobrang saya naman ang dami pa rin namin natututunan.
"Ang dami ko natututunan hindi lang sa skills ko sa volleyball kundi pati sa pakikipag-interact ko with other people."