PINT-sized libero Dawn Macandili stood tall among the national team after she impressed Okayama Seagulls coach Akiyoshi Kawamoto in the first phase of the 17-day training camp in Japan.
One of the reserves for the Southeast Asian Games, the defense specialist from La Salle stepped up as first libero Denden Lazaro was down with a pulled left hamstring she sustained during the Battle of the Rivals.
“You will be a world-class player. Your play is at par with Japan,” said Kawamoto before wrapping up his final training with the Philippine team.
“Even the Seagulls are impressed with you. You just have to get rid of stiffness at the backline. Your stance should be bouncy,” he added.
The nationals spent the first eight days in Okayama City under the tutelage of Kawamoto, who once served as head coach of Southeast Asian powerhouse Thailand.
Rigid training sessions in the morning and highly competitive tuneup matches in the afternoon were the daily routine for the Pinay volleybelles hoping to sharpen their defense.
The team’s final tune-up match against the top Japanese club team, however, resulted in a straight-set loss, 20-25, 23-25, 20-25.
From Okayama, the team composed of skipper Mika Reyes, Alyssa Valdez, Jovelyn Gonzaga, Jaja Santiago, Aby Marano, Maika Ortiz, Gen Casugod, Ces Molina, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Rhea Dimaculangan, Kim Fajardo, Kim Dy, Lazaro and Macandili moved to Osaka for another round of training.
The team’s mettle will be tested against university teams Ryokoku University, Osaka University of HSS, reigning Philippine Super Liga Invitational Conference champion Kobe Shinwa University and club team Osaka Superiors.