OSAKA, Japan–The national women’s volleyball team is starting to reap the fruits of its grueling training as it finally overcame the tough Kobe Shinwa Wo-men’s University squad, 25-21, 23-25, 28-26, 24-26, 17-15, in a friendly match late Saturday here.
Jaja Santiago and Alyssa Valdez displayed top level games, but it was a total team effort at the defensive end for the Nationals, who are entering the final stretch of their 17-day training in preparation for the 19th AVC Asian Senior Women’s Cham-pionship and the 29th Southeast Asian Games.
The 6-foot-5 Santiago was dominant offensively as she delivered 19 kills, four aces and five blocks for 28 points while Valdez provided support with 18 kills, three aces and three blocks to finish with 24 points.
Also coming up with a big game was open spiker Frances Molina, who chipped in 10 kills, four aces and two blocks for 16 points, as well as play-maker Kim Fajardo, who registered 57 excellent sets in the match that serves as their final tune up battle with the reigning Philippine Superliga (PSL) Invitatio-nal Conference champion.
Head coach Francis Vicente beamed satisfac-tion over their perfor-mance, but stressed the importance of consistency, hunger and desire to come up with a impressive per-formance in the two major international tournaments ahead.
It was the Nationals’ first victory in Japan.
They opened the camp with a series of straight-set losses to Okayama City Seagulls, an elite club team seeing action in the Japan V. Premier League.
Then, they moved the camp to Osaka where they managed to keep the match close before bowing down to Kobe Shinwa in a pair of friendlies.
Finally, they prevailed.
“This is a big win as far as the morale of the team is concerned. At least we now have an idea that we are slowly progressing,” said Vicente, who is also calling the shots for Gene-rika-Ayala in the PSL.
“But I told the team that we should not be satisfied. We should remain consistent and hungry to win. This is not the real war. The real battle is in the AVC and the SEA Games.”
Kobe Shinwa coach Kiyokazu Yamamoto ad-mitted that he was sur-prised with how the Fili-pinos performed, especially in the crucial stretch of the fifth set where team cap-tain Mika Reyes and Jaja Santiago delivered the telling blows that doomed their chances.
He also noted that the Filipinos are slowly getting used to the Japanese brand of volleyball and it wouldn’t take long before they could polish it and equate it to victories in the Internatio-nal arena.
“The Philippine team is getting better each day,” said Yamamoto. “The services were all heavy and we had difficulty plotting our attacks. Jaja also played very well. She used her height effectively and it gave us many problems defensively.”
Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. acting presi-dent Peter Cayco arrived here few hours after the match and was greeted by the good news.
“I want to congratulate the team for having a great camp,” said Cayco, who was tasked by LVPI president Joey Romasanta to supervise the national team program. “Winning over a Japanese team is always a welcome deve-lopment.”
The Nationals heard mass and took a rest on Sunday before facing two other teams; Kansai University and Osaka Superiors on Monday and Tuesday.
They will fly back to Manila on Wednesday.