Nat’l team showing signs of improvement in Japan


The Philippine women’s volleyball team. Josh Albelda, ABS-CBN Sports

MANILA, Philippines – The intensive training of the women’s national volleyball team is starting to bear fruit, as evidenced by an impressive performance in a friendly against the Okayama City Seagulls on Saturday at the Zip Arena in Okayama City, Japan.

Powered by Jaja Santiago, the Nationals gamely challenged the Japanese club before bowing in four sets, 22-25, 14-25, 22-25, 20-25.

Santiago led the Filipinas’ charge with 20 kills and three aces for 23 points, while Alyssa Valdez chipped in 15 attacks, an ace, and a block for a total of 17 markers.

Despite the loss, the Philippine team still displayed improvement in their blocking and floor defense after five days of training under the watchful eye of Seagulls coach Akiyoshi Kawamoto.

Setter Kim Fajardo was also impressive, tallying 40 excellent sets on top of an ace and a kill. Mika Reyes stepped up in the absence of injured middle blocker Aby Maraño and finished with four points.

Head coach Francis Vicente was pleased with the team’s performance, but still sought to tone down expectations and stressed that they remain a work in progress.

“I like our progress in this early stretch of our training,” said Vicente. “But we still have a lot to learn.”

“We still have to perfect our blocking and floor defense, as well as improve our composure in the crucial stretch of the match. There’s still room for improvement. We’re still a work in progress,” he stressed.

In the fourth set, the Nationals trailed by five points early, 3-8, before Fajardo’s ace tied the frame at 13. A strong hit from Valdez gave the Filipinos a slim 15-14 advantage, but it proved to be short-lived as the Japanese quickly retaliated.

The hosts surged to a 22-19 advantage and cruised to victory from there.

Kawamoto says he was impressed by the development of the Filipinos, and believes they will come up with a good performance in the AVC Asian Senior Women’s Championship and the 29th Southeast Asian Games.

“Your team did great,” the Japanese coach told Vicente through an interpreter. “There were some lapses on defense, but overall, your team is doing good in training.”

The team took a breather on Sunday, but will return to action on Monday with the Seagulls.

On Tuesday, they will head to Osaka, where they will train and compete with noted university and club teams – including reigning PSL Invitational Conference champion Kobe Shinwa University.

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