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Coaches reveal reason for Alyssa Valdez, Jia Morado's absence in national volleyball team pool

Creamline's Jia Morado (right) and Alyssa Valdez (second from right) are not part of the PNVF's women's national pool. PVL Media Bureau

The move not to include Philippine women's national volleyball team mainstays Alyssa Valdez and Jia Morado was part of the squad's aim to try a different approach, its coaches explained.

"It was very clear, I need some fresh blood. Some fresh players, (who are) younger and taller," explained Brazilian coaching consultant Jorge Edson Souza de Brito during Tuesday's Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum webcast,

"Let me just tell you this once, it's good everyone has access to social media, but it's not where I made my decision. I respect them, but we coaches, we try to do our best for the volleyball team. I think we have taken the best decision," he added, answering a question about the absence of the 28-year-old, 5-foot-9 spiker Valdez and the 26-year-old, 5-foot-7 setter Morado, as well as libero Kath Arado.

Souza de Brito furthered that he came to the decision to add the slots that ultimately went to Jema Galanza, Kat Tolentino, and Deanna Wong by observing game film from the 2019 Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) and the 2021 Premier Volleyball League Open Conference.

At the same time, national team head coach Odjie Mamon said the decision to include players who didn't attend the initial tryouts in Subic, Zambales was "out of his hands."

"With regard to the selection, it's done (and) over. It's done with. We are very hopeful with this team," explained Mamon.

Currently, 24 women's players and their male counterparts are training for the 2021 AVC Asian Women's Club Volleyball Championship set for Oct. 1-7 in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand. There, the Philippines will be fielding two teams from the distaff side - the younger Team Rebisco and the veteran-laden Team Choco Mucho.

Taking a page out of the Gilas Pilipinas Men program, which has recently leaned towards youth and continuity, the volleyball shot-callers opted to put younger wards together with skipper Aby Maraño and veterans Dindin Santiago-Manabat, Rhea Dimaculangan, and Galanza in Team Rebisco.

Joining the battle-tested foursome are collegians Mhicaela Belen, Imee Hernandez, Bernadett Pepito, Eya Laure, Jen Nierva, Faith Nisperos, Kamille Cal, and Ivy Lacsina, while serving as tactician will be Souza de Brito.

"When we learned that two teams would be sent, we had to divide the team. I recommended and urged the young players to stay in one team, who will be the future core who will play for the Philippines for a long time and beef them up with some veteran players," detailed Mamon, who will then coach Team Choco Mucho.

Mamon's captain will be Iris Tolenada, who will be backstopped by Tolentino, Wong, Kalei Mau, MJ Phillips, Tin Tiamzon, Mylene Paat, Kim Kianna Dy, Ria Meneses, Majoy Baron, Dell Palomata, and Dawn Macandili.

At present, the pool's oldest player is Dimaculangan, who turned 30 last March, and the smallest is 18-year-old Pepito, a libero standing a tad under 5-foot-2. From the 24 players - and adding Ageo Medics import Jaja Santiago - the next members of a probable 14-woman national team will be chosen, per Mamon.

Meanwhile, despite the absences of Marck Espejo and Bryan Bagunas, who have commitments as imports in Japan like Santiago, men's coach Dante Alinsunurin expects the other guys to step up, especially since many from the silver-winning national team from the 2019 SEA Games remain.

"There's Mark Alfafara, who has not been given a time to shine yet, and Joshua Umandal. Then we have new players such as Nico Almendras. They will fill the shoes of Marck and Bryan," expounded Alinsunurin.