MANILA, Philippines -- The players of the National University (NU) are moving forward after they were dismissed from the national team program by the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF) over the weekend.
Twelve NU players, along with their coach Karl Dimaculangan, were released by the federation on Sunday. This came after the Lady Bulldogs were not allowed by their team manager, Engr. Mariano See Diet, to play in the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Invitational Conference semifinals ahead of their participation in the AVC Cup for Women later this month.
The national team had been tapped as a guest team for the Invitational Conference, after Japan's Kobe Shinwa University had to pull out at the last minute over health and safety protocols. The PVL announced the national team's inclusion on Saturday, but revealed the next day that NU players were not given clearance by their manager over concerns about injuries.
It's a sentiment that was backed by the players, led by NU's veteran libero Jennifer Nierva who tweeted on Sunday that "our safety is the top most priority."
"Still, we're grateful for everything," added Nierva, who was the Best Libero in the UAAP Season 84 women's volleyball tournament.
Rather than dwell on the controversial events of the weekend, Nierva and the Lady Bulldogs are choosing to move on and focus their attention on what they can control. Already, they are back in training, building up for their title defense in Season 85.
NU was nothing short of dominant in Season 84, winning all 16 of their games and clinching the championship with a sweep of De La Salle University in the finals.
"This will not stop us from mastering our craft," said Nieva. "I know that no efforts nor sacrifices would be wasted. Time to work harder and come back stronger."
Meanwhile, PVL president and PNVF treasurer Ricky Palou revealed on Monday that even before they were not allowed to play in the Invitational, the NU players were already hampered by scheduling conflicts that kept them from fully participating in the training program of national team coach Jorge Edson Souza de Brito.
"Ang problema kasi 'yung schedules. The PNVF and coaching staff, Coach Jorge -- eto 'yung schedule na gusto namin, so dapat mag-training 'yung players na ganito," said Palou.
"'Yung NU, I can understand, kasi mga estudyante nila, may klase or something. 'Di naman pupwede na eto dapat 'yung schedule. So hindi magkatugma eh. 'Yun lang 'yung problema," he said.
"Eto 'yung gustong schedule ni Coach Jorge, sundan niyo. Kung 'di niyo masundan, huwag na lang, kasi lalong magkakagulo. 'Yun 'yung complaint ni Coach Jorge -- he has a program and schedule to follow, 'di naman nasusunod," he added.
"Parang he's getting frustrated. I'm planning the training of this team pero 'di niya magawa. That's really what's happening."
Palou lamented the lost opportunity for the national team to compete in the Invitational Conference, which would have given them a chance to gain match fitness before plunging into action in the AVC Cup that starts on August 21.
"The coaching staff wanted that, sina Coach Jorge kasi magandang tune-up, makita nila kung ano pa kulang against competition," he said. "Hindi talaga magkatugma. Sayang, kasi maganda sana 'yung plano."
"Maybe in the future, we should sit down again with the stakeholders, and come up ano ba maganda schedule."
With NU players out of the national team program, the PNVF will instead tap the best local team in the PVL Invitational Conference to represent the country in the AVC Cup for Women. They will be reinforced by Jelai Gajero of California Precision Sports and Trisha Genesis of Akari, who were both part of the national team pool.