THE Philippines may have beaten Vietnam in a pre-Southeast Asian Games test tournament two months ago.
But the biennial meet is a different story for the celebrated women’s volleyball team aiming for its first podium finish in 14 years.
Going for broke this early, the Filipinas take on the powerhouse Vietnamese as the 30th SEA Games women’s volleyball tournament reels off today at the Philsports Arena.
A talented crew from rival club leagues backstopped by a rising collegiate standout, the Philippines hopes to make an impact in the short, four-nation tournament before a huge crowd starting at 6 p.m.
Mentored by coach Shaq delos Santos, the Filipinas seek to improve their fourth place finish two years ago in Kuala Lumpur. Incidentally, it was Vietnam that foiled the Philippines from reaching the podium in the bronze medal match.
The Filipinas defeated the Vietnamese to finish third in the second leg of the Asian Grand Prix last October in Santa Rosa, Laguna. But the Vietnamese then were without their power hitter Thi Thanh Thuy Tran, while the Filipinas still have Kalei Mau at Alohi Hardy-Robbins.
With Tran, who is not only one of the best in the region but also in Asia as well, around, and without Mau and Hardy-Robbins, the Philippines is hard-pressed to pull off a repeat over Vietnam.
Definitely the dream combo of Alyssa Valdez and Mau won’t happen, but the Filipinas still have a lot of weapons to support the former Ateneo standout.
Although they might not be as talented as Mau, hard-working Ces Molina and young star Eya Laure can complement Valdez in the open spiker position.
The Philippines had solid blockers in Majoy Baron, Maddie Madayag and skipper Aby Maraño, while Mylene Paat, Jovelyn Gonzaga and Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, all lefties, hope to do well as the team’s opposite spikers.
Jia Morado and Rhea Dimaculangan, who filled in for Hardy-Robbins, will take turns in the playmaking chores, while liberos Dawn Macandili and Kath Arado will go all out to keep the ball in play for the Filipinas.
There’s no room for error for the Philippines in the single-round phase, as it will next face defending champion Thailand at 6 p.m. on Thursday before wrapping up its stint against Indonesia at the same time on Saturday.
The Thais take on the Indonesians in a rematch of the 2017 gold medal match at 3:30 p.m.