THE women’s national volleyball team kicks off its campaign in the ASEAN Grand Prix Second Leg with a game against Vietnam on Saturday at the Sta. Rosa Multi-purpose Sports Complex in Laguna.
Buoyed by their bronze-medal finish in the first leg two weeks ago in Thailand, the Filipina spikers try to reassert their mastery of a Vietnamese side without star outside hitter Thi Thanh Thuy Tran, who is in Japan for the V. Premier League.
Game time is 3 p.m.
“Philippines has improved a lot,” said Vietnamese coach Tuan Kiet Nguyen, whose squad lost all three matches in the first leg capped by a five-set defeat to the Pinays. “In this tournament, we're still not confident because one of our players cannot play here.”
However, Aby Maraño stressed that duplicating their five-set conquest of Vietman won’t be easy as they are also without two key players in Kalei Mau and Alohi Robins-Hardy.
“Sa tingin ko malaking bagay din yun pero kasi nawalan din kami ng players like Alohi and Kalei,” said Maraño on Thursday night during the pre-tournament presser at Crimson Hotel.
“For sure another challenging match for us. We’re not taking it as wala si T4 magiging complacent kami, we’re gonna take it na mas ma-inspire kami to play our A-game,” she added.
With Fil-Am hitter Mau nursing an Achilles injury and Robins-Hardy ruled ineligible, Alyssa Valdez is returning to action along with new additions Grethcel Soltones and Jasmine Nabor to boost the Nationals in front of their home crowd.
Robins-Hardy still has no Philippine passport and other papers to prove her Filipino citizenship, team officials said.
“Always ready naman kami to play especially pag dadalhin mo 'yung bansa ng Pilipinas kasi diyan natin mabibigay 'yung best natin,” said national team head coach Shaq Delos Santos, who is also banking on Maddie Madayag, Mylene Paat, Jia Morado, Jovelyn Gonzaga, Ces Molina, Roselyn Doria, Eya Laure, Dawn Macandili and Kath Arado.
Marano said: “Ang goal namin siyempre maiangat kung ano ang tinapos namin last leg. Kakayananin natin yan. Lahat naman nadadala sa aral.”
“Ang sarap maglaro na may sumisigaw sa’yo eh. Iba kasi dun sa Thailand kaunti lang ang Pilipino. Iba kasi yung may sumisigaw, tinatawag ang pangalan mo kasi nakaka-add ng confidence and morale yun,” she added.