JAKARTA—Coach Shaq delos Santos pulled no punches when asked to grade the Philippine women’s national volleyball team’s performance in the 2018 Asian Games on Saturday, following its last match of the tournament.
A four-set loss to host Indonesia clinched an eighth place finish for the Philippines, which was competing in the Asian Games for the first time in 36 years.
Delos Santos and co. managed just one win in the entire competition, a straight-sets victory over Hong Kong that nevertheless proved enough to propel them to the quarterfinals. There, they were dismissed by defending Olympic champion China; the Philippines would go on to lose to Kazakhstan in five sets in the classification before its loss to Indonesia on Saturday morning.
“Ako, magiging totoo ako dito,” delos Santos told reporters after the 17-25, 25-23, 19-25, 20-25 result.
“I think siguro, nasa ano pa lang kami, 5, mga ganoon,” the coach said when asked to rate his team on a scale of 1-10. “Ako, magiging honest ako kasi nakikita ko kasi na (may) potential ‘yung team.”
“Pero hindi ko pwedeng sabihin na mataas na ‘yung performance,” he also admitted.
Interview with Shaq delos Santos. Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News
Delos Santos is the first to say that his team has a long way to go. The squad showed flashes of greatness in the Asian Games, and its effort against Kazakhstan on Friday was tremendous. But ultimately, it was clear that even its Southeast Asian neighbors are a few steps ahead of the Philippines in terms of the development of their women’s volleyball program.
There was little that the Philippines could do against powerhouse Thailand, which went all the way to the finals of the competition. Delos Santos and his crew managed to stay competitive against Indonesia, a team anchored by the powerful Aprilia Manganang, but fell prey to their own errors and inconsistencies.
For delos Santos, all these woes are part of the process that the national team has to go through in its bid to return to its glory days.
“Naniniwala ako sa team namin, na kaya naming umangat especially kung magagawa namin na maibigay ‘yung time namin,” he said. “Sa national team kasi, sacrifice talaga.”
“Hindi siya madaling gawin, especially sa atin na kailangan, maayos namin ‘yung mga schedules and maging smooth lahat ng takbo,” he explained.
Everything that occurred in the Asian Games, he said, was part of this process — including his oft-criticized substitution patterns and rotations during games.
“Andoon pa rin kami sa process, ina-adjust pa rin ‘yung teams,” said delos Santos, who played Jaja Santiago mostly as a wing spiker in these Games before shifting her to middle blocker in their final set of the competition.
“Most of the time naman, ine-explain din namin sa kanila na, ‘Team, kailangan nating maging ganito, kasi siyempre, kailangan natin mag-adjust sa lahat’,” he added.
“And ‘yun, naging limited din ‘yung training time namin, so hopefully magtuloy-tuloy para mas ma-adjust namin, or kahit anong rotation na gawin namin, magiging maayos.”
The players, like delos Santos, preached patience and trust in the work that they are doing. That they participated in the Asian Games at all is a big deal for the Filipinas, none of whom were alive the last time the Philippines played volleyball at this level.
“It’s really a process, it’s really a journey for us,” stressed Alyssa Valdez.
“This is just the start,” she added. “We’re looking forward for more games. Hindi naman nakukuha sa isang gabi na manalo ka.”
Team captain Abigail Maraño: “Nagti-tiyaga lang kami, magtitiis kami. Parte ito ng journey namin. Tatanggapin namin at hindi kami hihinto na mag-sanay at mag-ensayo pa.”
Valdez’s wish of more games will come true soon enough for the team. Upon their arrival in Manila, they will only get a few days’ break before returning to work — this time to prepare for the Asian Women’s Volleyball Cup in Thailand, which runs from September 17 to 23.
This, delos Santos said, is the next step in their process.
“I know na magiging possible ito lahat, basta ‘wag lang kaming mainip,” he said. “Patience lang, and ‘yun, sa process pa rin kami naka-focus. Siyempre, positive pa rin.”
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