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Volley coach prefers a tall team

KUALA LUMPUR – Five days before their clash with Malaysia, Francis Vicente is looking for ways to keep the national women’s volleyball team occupied.

On Sunday, the national coach allowed his players to visit a nearby mall.

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That’s about the concession Vicente is willing to give after another hard practice.

Expectations are high for the team to win a medal – a goal that Vicente himself has set for the team.

“I believe that we can compete with any team except Thailand,” he said.

Their recent victory over Vietnam in the recent Asian seniors volleyball championship is proof on how far this collection of superstars has progressed.

He took the job last March with the intention of forming a tall team.

“Gusto ko sana kumuha ng mga six-footers na bata pa, pero after I realized that we needed immediate good results so I took the best available talents,” he said.

His choices did not sit well with some fans and Vicente received a lot of bashing on social media.

“At first, sumagot ako. I told them I could only take 12 players. After a while, it was best just to ignore,” Vicente said.

There’s one player though who got away – Myla Pablo of National University.

“I wanted her so badly. Pero hindi siya sumipot. She could have added more firepower to the team,” Vicente said.

What the team lacked at the moment is more exposure to high level matches.

During their training in Japan, they were told about the importance of resilience and toughness against adversity.

The Japanese showed these virtues when they came back from two points down to beat Thailand in the final of the recent Asian tournament in Manila.

“Yun ang kulang sa team,” said Vicente, recalling their match against Kazakhstan where they rallied from two sets down and forced a fifth set.

“Biglang parang ayaw na pumalo sa fifth set,” he wondered. “I don’t know what happened.”

Vicente is fully aware that it would take time to reach the level of Thailand, but it has become imperative to fast-track the process. Home fans expect no less than gold when the country hosts the Games two years from now.

But getting the best players and committing them to prepare for the 2019 Games is another matter best resolved by the volleyball association, according to Vicente.

There are two major leagues back home – the Philippine Volleyball League (PVL) and the Philippine Superliga (PSL) which compete for the country’s top players.

The support and cooperation of both leagues are essential to ensure the continuity of the program, according to Vicente who candidly admitted that he’s not even sure of his own future.

“Wala pang linaw. Focus muna sa SEA Games,” he said.