PHILIPPINE Air Force doesn’t have an import but the Jet Spikers have high hopes that 6-foot-3 middle blocker Dell Palomata can hold her own against foreign reinforcements in the Shakey’s V-League Reinforced Conference.
The Open Conference runner-up guns for a championship in the import-laden tournament but stuck with its all-Filipino roster led by veterans Joy Cases, Judy Ann Caballejo, May Ann Pantino, Wendy Semana and Jennifer Manzano,
Head coach Jasper Jimenez believes that having Palomata back is a big boost for the team. In the Open Conference, Air Force lost Palomata in the middle of the tournament as she got recalled by St. La Salle-Bacolod. But Jimenez is confident no such issues will happen this time around as Palomata is now an enlisted Air Force personnel and a regular player for the Jet Spikers.
“Oo, maganda (ang chance with Dell). Dati solid kami, [pero] dahil sa nangyari nga sa kanya ‘di siya pinayagan, so nag-shaky-shaky kami. Pero ngayon solid na talaga,” said Jimenez. ‘‘Yung togetherness, mas lumalim kasi mahaba ang preparation.”
“Maganda ang laban namin kahit pa sabihin na wala kaming import,” he added during the press conference on Friday. “Last conference kasi guest player lang siya, pero ngayon regular player na siya kasi enlisted personnel na siya.”
Jimenez proudly shared that Palomata helped their team win in the AFP Olympics.
“Malaking contribution ang naibigay niya sa team noong naglaro siya sa AFP Olympics at may magandang resulta,” he said. “Sana ay may magandang resulta rin kami sa liga ngayon. Top four lang daw po sabi ng mga players ko, pero lahat naman nagi-aim ng championship. Ang initial thinking lang namin ay manalo muna kami every game.”
Palomata’s mettle will be tested against American imports Andrea Kactsits and Breanna Mackie of Open Conference champion Pocari Sweat, Kaylee Manns and Katharine Morrell of Bali Pure and Thai reinforcements Kanjana Kuthaisoong and Natthanicha of Bureau of Customs.
Air Force will face college team University of Santo Tomas in the opening game on Saturday at the PhilSports Arena.