THEY face tough competition but remain undaunted as the Petron Blaze Spikers prepared for the 2015 AVC Asian Women's Club Championship at the newly-built Ha Nam Competition Hall in Phu Ly, Vietnam.
The Blaze Spikers, winners of the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix last year, marched to their morning training in high spirits, eager to wage war against the finest club teams in Asia for a chance to advance to the FIVB World Women's Club Championship next year.
The Blaze Spikers were set to play North Koreans on Saturday before taking on Islamic Azad University of Iran on Monday, two-time champion Hisamitsu Seiyaku Springs of Japan on Tuesday and powerhouse Zhejiang of China on Wednesday.
In the previous edition of this tournament in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand last year, the Philippines, represented by PLDT and reinforced by Misao Tanyama of Japan and Regla Bell of Cuba, emerged eighth out of 10 competitors. Hisamitsu Springs of Japan took the crown while Tianjin Bohai Bank of China and Zhetyssu Taldykorgan of Kazakhstan claimed the silver and bronze medals, respectively.
"That's how tough this competition is," said Petron coach George Pascua.
"But we will try our very best to surpass the finish of the Philippines last year. I am confident with my team. Our core players have been playing together for almost two years and we're just tweaking some plays to accommodate our new player, Aby Marano, as well as our imports (Rupia Inck Furtado and Erica Adachi)."
Pascua added that they have been working on some plays that will hopefully offset the height advantage of the opponents.
"This is an elite tournament. Everybody prepared something to get ahead of the competition," he said. "We will carefully study them in the first set. Kumbaga sa boxing, jab-jab muna. Then, kapag nakita na natin ang weakness ng kalaban, saka tayo aatake."
Also seeing action for the Blaze Spikers are Rachel Anne Daquis, Dindin Manabat, Ces Molina, Fille Cayetano, Jen Reyes, Acy Masangkay, Mina Aganon, Mayette Zapanta, Aia del Mundo and skipper Maica Morada.