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Foton returns with tons of experience

Foton Pilipinas checked out of the Thai province of Sisaket looking ready and more prepared to compete in the AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship starting this Saturday at the Alonte Sports Center in Biñan City.

The Tornadoes landed in Manila late afternoon yesterday following a fruitful campaign in the 2016 Sealect Tuna Thailand Volleyball League where they gained massive experience for this prestigious tourney where Asia’s best club teams will be seeing action.

Foton Pilipinas absorbed a sorry setback against the Thai national team led by stars Nootsara Tomkom and Pleumjit Thinkaow in the opener followed by a four-set meltdown against reigning Asian champion Bangkok Glass.

But it didn’t crush the morale of the Tornadoes as they stormed back with a pair of victories over Rangsit University and Kasetsart University in the classification phase.

It, however, fell prey to 3BB Nokhonnont in its final battle, 25-19, 19-25, 24-26, 14-25, to settle for 6th place in this highly competitive tourney that serves as a good warm up for the Asian club tourney.

Foton Pilipinas head coach Fabio Menta of Italy emphasized that the outcome of the tourney hardly matters as he sees a lot of positive in the young team powered by Americans Lindsay Stalzer and Ariel Usher with Jovelyn Gonzaga of RC Cola-Army, Aby Maraño of F2 Logistics and Jen Reyes of Petron serving as guest players.

“We’re quite positive,” said Menta, who was formally appointed as head coach two weeks ago. “We played against quicker, more experienced players and gave court time to our younger Filipino players.”

“This is what the club wanted to achieve and if you consider that we only worked together for two weeks and without two key players in Jaja (Santiago) and Jovelyn, coming back home with two victories is already a great result.”

The Asian club tourney will not be a walk in the park.

Ba’yi Army Shenzheng of China will be parading Asian U23 MVP Liu Yanhan and Olympic star Yuan Xinyue while Bangkok Glass of Thailand will be bannered by Vietnamese middle blocker Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hoa and American wing spiker Ashley Frazier. NEC Red Rockets of Japan will also be tough as high-flying opener Sarina Koga will carry the cudgels together with Olympic star Haruyo Shimamura.

Menta said hitting the goal of a semifinal finish remains doable.

“It’s not going to be easy considering that all the other teams have been working together for months and we have 60% of the team joining now with a new coach,” he said.