Filipina spikers leave for Japan today

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Alyssa Valdez (right) avoids the defense of Adamson blockers during the Premier Volleyball League Open Conference elimination round. Valdez is one of the 14 players going to Japan for a 17-day training camp. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The first major step back to international prominence will be formally taken as the national women’s volleyball team flies to Japan today to kick off its preparation for two major international tournaments ahead.

Bannered by skipper Mika Reyes, the Nationals are set to leave past noon for Osaka where they would take a three-hour train ride to the western city of Okayama.

In Okayama, an old city that is known for its enchanting castles and gardens, the Nationals will have a six-hour training daily together with Japan V. Premier League powerhouse Okayama Seagulls until July 25.

After that, the Nationals will move their training camp back to Osaka for a series of friendlies against noted club and university teams like Ryokoku University, Osaka Superiors, Osaka University of HSS and Kobe Shinwa University, the team that reigned supreme in the Philippine Superliga Invitational Conference recently.

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The team flies back to Manila on August 2 where it will cool its heels before opening its campaign in the AVC Asian Senior Women’s Championship on August 9.

The Japanese training is a staple in the preparation of the national team during its golden age in the 1990.

Former team captain Nene Ybanez-Chavez, who is now part of the national coaching staff, said the Japanese coaches harnessed their skills and character to perfection that propelled them to a glorious finish in the Singapore Southeast Asian Games in 1993.

She recalled that their training was so brutal that she passed out thrice while an angry Japanese trainer hit Leonora Escollante for failing to follow directions.

But head coach Francis Vicente said their hopes are high in this star-studded national squad that also has popular players Aby Marano, Kim Fajardo, Denden Lazaro, Jaja Santiago, Jovelyn Gonzaga and Alyssa Valdez in its roster.

“We have to prepare because this is going to be tough. But I told the team that if the only way to bring back the country to Asian volleyball map is through this kind of training, so be it,” he said. “I’m sure they will all work hard to survive it.”

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