NATIONAL head coach Roger Gorayeb and Alyssa Valdez were stunned to learn how long Japan had trained for the Asian Under-23 Women’s Volleyball Championship.
“Two weeks,” Japan coach Kiyoshi Abo through an interpreter as he sat next to the Philippine coach and his star player during the post-game press conference.
Although Japan has always maintained a training academy for women's volleyball, this team's preparation is still one week short of the Philippines’ own three-week training for its first foray into international play in a decade.
Yet Japan’s talent and experience showed as the visitors came up with an emphatic victory over the Philippines, 25-12, 25-18, 25-15, in its opening match of the second round in the Manila showpiece.
Aside from Japan's advantage in experience and skills, Gorayeb said his own players were excited, maybe too excited, to play a powerhouse team like Japan, leading to 27 errors against only 10 for their opponents.
He also rued instances where players celebrated prematurely even though the ball was still in play.
“The errors were not really errors. It’s misreceptions. We had too much misreceptions dahil kinabahan din ‘yung mga bata. The reception was not so good especially in the first set. It was in the third set where we were able to adjust,” Gorayeb said.
“I also told them, ‘Don’t turn your back and celebrate,’” Gorayeb added. “Akala nila patay na ‘yung bola pero this is Japan. It’s not an ordinary team. It’s the first time they play Japan and they know that they are a powerhouse team kaya kinabahan.
“Ibang level na ‘to eh. We are now talking about the top eight teams in the tournament and even the top teams in the world.”
The Pinay spikers nonetheless were happy to have gained experience from playing against a world-caliber team like Japan.
“All I can say is we were lucky to play Japan,” Valdez said. “Super happy lang kami na nalalaro namin sila. We got so many lessons. We really learned a lot from them.”
Gorayeb expressed his wish that time wil come when his wards will be able to play like Japan, a team not so tall but very fluid in their execution.
“We are happy to play them. (The players) are all very happy. We learned a lot. They are tall and fast. Sana, we could play like them in the near future. That will be a great thing for us. How I wish we can play them everyday so that we can learn from them,” said Gorayeb.
The national head coach also hopes for understanding from fans as the Filipinas battle the best teams in Asia, with Chinese Taipei next for the Philippines on Tuesday.
“I hope you understand that they have not played internationally for a decade. This is a very young team. It’s a big achievement for us. The girls are really doing their best if possible to win against any opponent,” Gorayeb said.