THE Philippine women's volleyball team's buildup for the coming Southeast Asian Games started with only four players in attendance on Monday but national coaches are not panicking, expecting more stars to strengthen the side over the next few days.
Just two days after the Philippine team rounded out its stint in the Asian Under-23 Championship in Manila, Alyssa Valdez and Jia Morado were back in practice at the Blue Eagles Gym inside the Ateneo campus for a team tasked to battle for the gold medal in Singapore next month.
The two Ateneo stars were joined by former University of Santo Tomas standouts Maika Ortiz and Rhea Dimaculangan in training supervised by Lady Eagles coach and PH team trainer Tai Bundit in the absence of head coach Roger Gorayeb.
Gorayeb, who led the Under-23 team to a seventh-place finish, explained he had to spend a lot of time taking care of paper works for his players at San Sebastian and couldn't make the trip to Katipunan because his car is prohibited from Manila's streets under the MMDA's number coding scheme.
"Matagal na rin kasi ako hindi nakakapunta sa Baste, before pa mag-Under 23, kaya pinuntahan ko kanina. Ang dami kong inasikaso, iniwan ko na nga 'yung men's (team)," Gorayeb told Spin.ph.
"Tinapos ko pa kasi 'yung mga papers na kailangan ng mga bata sa Baste, enrollment na kasi," he added.
Gorayeb, however, assured he will be back running the Philippine team's practice on Tuesday morning and expects more players to join Valdez and Co. beginning with two other standouts from the Under-23 team, namely Jaja Santiago and NCAA MVP Gretchel Saltones of San Sebastian.
The veteran coach said he has also gained commitments from veterans Dindin Santiago-Manabat, Rachel Anne Daquis, and Jovelyn Gonzaga to join the team in the second day of practice.
Santiago-Manabat and Daquis played for Petron in the finals of the Philippine Super Liga in Imus, Cavite.
"Hinihintay na namin ang mga 'yan kasi um-oo na silang maglaro," said Gorayeb.
Ateneo libero Denden Lazaro is also expected to join the second day of practice as Gorayeb is in the process of arranging her sleeping quarters since practice starts at 6 a.m.
Also part of the SEA Games pool are Myla Pablo, Tin Agno, Ellaine Kasilag, Kim Fajardo, Mika Reyes, Aby Marano, Lizlee Gata-Pantone, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, and Sue Roces.