PNVF President laments absence of big names in tryouts; vows to change volleyball landscape

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by Dennis U. Eroa

Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF) president Ramon “Tats” Suzara expressed disappointment on the decision of volleyball stars led by Alyssa Valdez not to attend the tryouts for the national team for the coming Vietnam Southeast Asian Games and other international contests.

In an exclusive interview, Suzara did not name names but said some players need to change their attitudes regarding donning the national colors.

“I remain firm on my decision that only those, who attended the tryouts will be able to make it to the national teams,” said Suzara. But here’s the catch. Valdez and the other absentees still can make it to the national team aiming to challenge the supremacy of world-class Thailand and other rivals in the coming Vietnam Southeast Asian Games and other big-name tournaments.

Jaja Sanitago during the PNVF tryouts
Jaja Sanitago during the PNVF tryouts

When told that some players are acting playing a hard-to-approach stance to the press, Suzara said that it should not be the case.

“They need to be media-friendly. They will not be known without the help of the working media,” said Suzara. “They are public figures.”

Sixteen players composed of veterans and collegiate stars braved the tryouts recently at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. The veterans were led by Japanese V-League star Jaja Santiago, undoubtedly the country’s biggest draw, Aby Marano, Majoy Baron, Mylene Paat and Eya Laure were present.

Other veterans who attended were Ria Meneses, Dell Palomata and Iris Tolenada while the collegiate standouts are Faith Nisperos, Imee Hernandez, Bernadette Pepito, Jennifer Nierva, Ivy Lacsina, Kamille Cal, Alyssa Solomon and Mhicaela Belen. The students said they are more than willing to prove their worth and learn from their elders.

Due to safety concerns and the scheduling, Valdez, head of the PNVF Athletes Commission, begged off from attending. Also absent were the likes of Jia Morado, Kim Fajardo, Kianna Dy, Dawn Macandili, Maddie Madayag, Bea de Leon, MJ Philips, Kalei Mau, Myla Pablo, Aloha Robins _Hardy, Denden Lazaro Kath Arado and other veterans. Morado, the 5-foot-7 veteran setter, also fully explained her failure to attend.

Suzara stressed that the 16 brave souls are automatically members of the national training pool but the coaching staff headed by Ogie Mamon can still decide and submit recommendations to the executive board to add four or five more players to the roster. The national team commission headed by volleyball expert Tonyboy Liao will also have a say.

“I understand that some who missed the tryouts gave valid reasons,” said Suzara. Mau, who can bolster the attacking strength of the nationals, signed with a Puerto Rican club but vowed to come back and help the country win a medal in SEA Games and other international tournaments.

Aside from safety concerns, Suzara said others gave personal and family reasons for their failure. “Let us see what will happen in the next few days. The door is still open,” said Suzara, who said that there is the possibility that another tryout for the remaining slots will be made or will just fill up the slots depending on the recommendation of the coaching staff and the commission to the executive board.

Earlier, Liao said the country must field its strongest team to be able to compete for medal in the biennial Games. It is common knowledge that the country must overcome world-power Thailand and rising power Vietnam and Indonesia to earn a medal in Hanoi. The Philippines bowed to its SEA Games neighbors in the Manila event.

“We need the veterans,” said Liao. The board is also composed of Ariel Paredes, Arnel Hajan, Don Caringal, Rod Roque, Yul Benosa, Ricky Palou, Charo Soriano, Carmela Gamboa, Karl Chan, Fr. Vic Calvo and lawyer Wharton Chan.

To improve volleyball, Suzara said PNVF is bringing a top-notch Brazilian coach to handle the national team in the near future. He declined to name the Brazilian mentor but said he is a well-known figure in the Brazilian volleyball scene which is bursting with talent and rich in tradition.

He also said that the country is determined to host the Asian Women’s Volleyball Championship this August after the withdrawal of the original host Jiangmen in China.

“We’re looking at Subic and Clark as possible venues but there are things to be considered because of the pandemic and the playing courts which should conform to the prescribed standards by the Asian Volleyball Confederation. Sixteen countries bannered by Olympic champion China, Japan, South Korea and Thailand are already in. This will be the third time that the Philippines will host such a huge event.

In contrast, the tryouts for the men’s volleyball indoor and beach volleyball teams and the women’s beach volleyball teams ran smoothly. Like the women’s indoor, the tryouts were strictly supervised by experts and in cooperation with the SBMA and the regional task force to ensure that health protocols will be followed.

Volleyball superstar Marck Espejo of Cignal and Ateneo attended the tryouts. He was joined by fellow SEA Games veteran Johnvic de Guzman, who swore to temporarily leave his showbiz career to play for the national team anew. Espejo played a big role in the country’s silver medal finish in the Manila SEA Games.

Others who attended were Mark Alfafara, Josh Retamar, Francis Saura, Jessie Lopez JP Bugaoan, Jao Umandal, Kim Dayadante, Mark Enciso, Noel Kampton, Anthony Ekwenugo, Alche Gupiteo, Kim Malabunga, Chumson Njigha Jr, Ish Polvorosa, Jian Salarzon, Ricky Marcos, Manuel Sumanguid, Louie Ramirez, Ysay Marasigan, John Mark Ronquilo, Kharyl Parce, Rayver Sison, Rex Intal, Jack Kalingking, Nico Almendras, Leo Aringo , Joeven dela Vega. and Leo Ordiales.

Dennis Eroa