The field is smaller yet the stakes are bigger for the Philippine women’s volleyball national team as only four teams are set to compete in the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games next month.
From a field of six grouped into two pools in 2017, this year’s iteration of the biennial meet will only have Vietnam, Indonesia, host Philippines and defending champions Thailand vying for the gold medal.
It will be a re-installation of sorts of the 2019 ASEAN Grand Prix where the same four nations competed against each other last September and October.
The four squads will undergo a crucial single round-robin elimination, wherein the top two teams will advance to the championship match while the lower half will be relegated for the battle for bronze.
The Philippines will start its quest on ending a 14-year medal drought against the Vietnamese on December 3 before facing 11-peat champs Thais on December 5. Both games are slated at 6 p.m.
The Nationals then takes on Indonesia on December 7, 6 p.m., in what could be the determinant of their fate in the tournament to be held at PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.
A couple of losses may automatically weaken the national team’s chances of moving to the next phase, further eliminating them from title contention.
In other news, the men’s team is also up for a grueling campaign as after being bracketed with last Games’ runners-up Indonesia and Vietnam along with Cambodia in Pool B in the men’s tournament.
The Pinoy spikers led by the troika of Marck Espejo, Bryan Bagunas and Ranran Abdilla open their bid against Cambodia on December 2, followed by December 4 game against bronze medalist Vietnam.
They will then tussle with silver medalist Indonesia on December 6. All their games are set at 6 p.m.
The first and second-ranked teams per group will qualify for the semifinals.