Second part (Read first part here)
After discussing the outside hitters and middle blockers, FOX Sports Philippines continues its round-table discussion on the national team’s potential starting unit for the forthcoming 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games to be held here next month.
In the previous discussion, Alyssa Valdez and Kalei Mau emerged as the top picks for the left wing position alongside Ces Molina. For the middle, Majoy Baron and Maddie Madayag were unanimously hailed as the team’s logical choices.
This time, we discussed who among the 14-woman lineup deserves the first stringer roles for opposite, setter and libero.
Anton Onato: Mylene Paat
The Philippines will be up against a strong challenge as they face world-class outside hitters from the neighboring countries. This is where Mylene Paat’s job come to fore.
With her length, Paat is my best pick to fulfill the opposite spiker post. Apart from this, the lefty spiker of the Adamson University program is a force to be reckoned with both in the front and back line as she developed a lethal spiking form in these areas with the same precision and ball speed.
Denver Del Rosario: Jovelyn Gonzaga
It’s a good problem for the Philippines when you have two powerful and skilled lefties in Mylene Paat and Jovelyn Gonzaga to fulfill the opposite spiker role.
Both players have their individual skill set. On one hand, Paat is a hard-hitting lefty who can also kick the team’s blocking up a notch. Her power will prove lethal on quick and strong-blocking teams, while her net defense can help stymie powerful attackers.
On another, Gonzaga is a crafty player who has a sound floor defense. With the Philippines still struggling in transition plays, Gonzaga’s creativity to get the point will prove useful, while also giving good first balls to help the team play in-system.
Both had their moments of glory in the ASEAN Grand Prix–Paat in her 22-point performance against Vietnam in the first leg, and Gonzaga in her 14-point showing to lead the country’s losing effort against Indonesia in the second leg.
For the upcoming Southeast Asian Games, my pick would be Gonzaga. The skills are there for both players, but Gonzaga has proven her composure and focus especially in pressure-packed moments. She will also be an important asset in strengthening the team’s back-row defense, a facet they need to keep in check if they want to play in-system and set up easier balls.
Edward Lopez: Mylene Paat
It’s a hard pick between Mylene Paat and Jovelyn Gonzaga for the opposite position.
Each has her own strengths, an advantage she can bring to the table. Clearly, Paat has the edge in blockings, which will prove vital when the national team tussle against hard-hitting spikers in April Manganang or Onuma Sittirak. On the other hand, Gonzaga’s reception and floor defense are also fundamental to activate the their full offensive arsenal.
Each had her moments during the 2019 ASEAN Grand Prix. Paat’s best moment was when she dropped 22 markers during the Philippines’ five-set conquest of Vietnam in the first leg. For Gonzaga, her 14-point effort against Indonesia in the second leg was her most commendable performance as of late.
For these tournament, I’d go for Paat. While Gonzaga is the better passer, Paat is a decent receiver as well despite her lapses in their recent stints. Additionally, she has shown promise with her backrow kill — a weapon that will always come in handy whenever Mau or Valdez are ruled out to hit.
Anton: Rhea Dimaculangan
For the setter post, Rhea Dimaculangan is my first choice. The Petron setter has proven in the past that she could adjust quickly with whatever sets her spikers like. Just give her a decent first ball and she will surely create plays which will confuse her spikers’ blockers.
Apart from her playmaking skills, Dimaculangan’s height will be vital for the national team squad. We are no strangers that other Southeast Asian countries have talented outside hitters. With DMac’s length, she can keep these spikers checked while doing the setting chores. Her strong serves will also be an asset to do damage on the opponents’ defense.
Denver: Jia Morado
The tricolor squad also has another win-win with two good setters in Jia Morado and Rhea Dimaculangan. Tasked to orchestrate the nationals’ offensive arsenal, both setters have showed up well in international tournaments, proving steady and connected with their spikers.
Morado is easily the starting setter for the Philippines. Her ability to make plays despite an out-of-system reception has proven to be a blessing for the national team. This is seen in her recent showing in the second leg of the ASEAN Grand Prix–be it a low first ball or a reception given away from the comfortable middle part of the frontline, Morado will still find a way to push through with planned combination plays.
— denver del rosario (@dnvrDINOSAURio) October 6, 2019
In addition, Morado has proven her connection with the spikers I expect to start for the national team. Morado has played with Valdez for a very long time, and Madayag for three years with the Ateneo Lady Eagles. Her familiarity with Gonzaga, who she debuted with in the SEA Games back in 2015, has also been effective for the nationals as shown in their last game of the second leg against Indonesia. Morado has also established her connection with Baron despite out-of-system plays, while also playing well with Mau despite playing for the first time together.
— denver del rosario (@dnvrDINOSAURio) October 6, 2019
Edward: The last time Jia Morado and Rhea Dimaculangan paired up as the national team’s court generals was in 2015. Four years later, they were back as duo, and similar to that SEA Games stint, Morado may nab the starting setter role.
One of the most commendable quality of Morado is her ability to convert faulty first balls into gem of a play. Typically, when the team’s reception is wobbly, the first tendency is to throw the ball towards the wing spikers’ way. But make an exception for Morado as she will still try to set up her middle hitters even at kneeling position just so the unpredictability of their offense will be kept intact.
Further, if Valdez, Madayag and Paat are starting for the team, then Morado is the more appropriate setter. Morado’s familiarity with Valdez and Madayag dates back to their Ateneo days, whilst she and Paat have somewhat developed chemistry after their 2018 Asian Women’s Volleyball Cup stint.
To her credit, Dimaculangan is a very talented setter as well. Her inclusion alone in the lineup is a big boost considering her vast international experience.
Anton: Kath Arado
A team’s first line of offense is reception. This is where Kath Arado’s specialty will come in. In recent memory, the Generika-Ayala libero was able to prove us that she can embrace this role as she was able to contain strong services from the likes of Thailand’s Onuma Sittirak.
The reason why I chose Kath Arado is that she will completely blend well with the talent of Dimaculangan as their duo in reception and setting will be vital for the team’s success in the biennial meet. With Arado’s on-point reception and DMac’s excellent ball distribution, and a roster of talented attackers, the Philippines could just go back to the podium in the region’s volleyball history.
Denver: Dawn Macandili
It’s another difficult toss-up between Dawn Macandili and Kath Arado, who are both arguably the top two liberos of the country right now. Both defensive aces have their strengths: Macandili has the better hustle, quick at saving balls; Arado is reception-steady, with a good eye for spikes.
For this tournament, I would go with Macandili. The Grand Prix second leg Best Libero has been the center of our squad’s floor defense for years. Experience-wise, she edges out Arado who just debuted with the national team this year.
What Macandili should work on is her reception in order to be a complete defensive machine for the Philippines. Her skills are very much needed for the nationals if they want to generate as much offense as possible.
Edward: Dawn Macandili
Fielding either Dawn Macandili and Kath Arado is a win-win situation for the national team. But if only 12 players will be included in the final cut, the logical move is to bring in only one libero in the fold. For that matter, I’d go for Macandili.
Macandili has been the backbone of our national team’s floor defense for three years, and she has proven that she’s no fluke in the international arena (maybe except for her 2018 Asian Games performance).
Great at chasing loose balls, the Best Libero of the second leg of Grand Prix exudes fearlessness in keeping the ball alive — a trait her teammates could somehow get inspiration from.
Macandili, though, has to work doubly hard with her reception. If it can be flawless, then it should be flawless. The team will need her to be 100 percent accurate and precise with her reception to generate better offense, especially when facing tough serving squads like Thailand and Indonesia.