Sunday, October 23, 2016

FIVB Women's Club World Championships in the Philippines

For the first time, the Philippines hosted the FIVB Women's Club World Championships (CWC) from October 18 to 23. The tournament includes the current champions of the AVC Club Volleyball Championship in Asia, the African Clubs Championship, the South American Volleyball Club Championship and the CEV Women's Champions League in Europe. Being the host country, the Philippines got to field in a team which featured the magnificent 7 - Rachel Daquis, Jovelyn Gonzaga, Kim Fajardo, Jen Reyes, Jaja Santiago, Frances Molina, and Mika Reyes - as well as 7 imports. Since this was a club championship, the Philippine team competed as PSL-F2 Logistics Manila.

The local team ended up in the bracket that included South American champions Rexona-Sesc Rio, European champions Pomì Casalmaggiore, and wild card Eczacıbaşı VitrA who are actually also the defending champions of this event, having won it in 2015. While the chances of winning against seasoned clubs that had been playing and training together for years were slim to none, it would be a very good experience for our local players to play against the best of the best in the world. And it was! While the PSL-F2 Logistics Manila team had 7 strong imports, the team's Serbian head coach Moro Branislav made sure that every Filipino player got to go on court in almost every game. In fact, the starting six (or seven, including the libero) often included Jaja Santiago and Kim Fajardo. In fact, both Jaja and Kim made their presence felt, with both garnering lots of praise from their competitors.
 One of the coolest things that happened in the tournament is that coach Moro Branislav actually fielded an all-Filipino lineup that played for an entire set. And he did this twice! The first time was in the second set against Eczacıbaşı VitrA. While we lost the set against the second stringers of the defending champions, we essentially played against the Turkish Olympic team and a score of 17 is quite respectable for a team that has only played together for about a month. The second time was in the third and final set against Asian champions Bangkok Glass, and the locals took 20 points in that set. The clamor now is to keep this Magnificent 7 team intact and just add other players to the mix since they are now gelling quite well and their experience at the world stage, competing with global heavyweights, can only help our national team get better.

I am especially happy that my local favorite, Mika Reyes, also had some pretty solid contributions. Despite being pretty short for a middle blocker (at 5'11" she's quite tall in the Philippines but globally, other middle blockers are about the same height as Jaja at 6'5"), she showed a lot of fight and no fear.

A photo posted by Mika Reyes (@reyesmikaaa) on

Not only did she slow down a lot of spikes with her blocking, she also scored with spikes, an ace, and a block. And not just any block. A one-handed block! Wow! Check it out here.

Despite the Women's CWC being held in the Philippines for the first time, the organization of the event was praised by the FIVB president. A lot of the international volleyball stars who played here had great things to say about the crowds and the atmosphere. I think it helps that the local fans know the international players so everyone kept cheering players on and having selfies taken with the athletes.

In the end, Turkish team Eczacıbaşı VitrA made history by being the first team to win back-to-back FIVB Women's Club World Championship titles. While PSL-F2 Logistics Manila ended up in last place, I'm sure that the entire team, including the Magnificent 7, the imports, and the coaching staff who were all given the rare opportunity to compete against the world's best, still felt like winners. As did the event organizers. And the entire country.

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