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Sports

Tats to change volley landscape

Joaquin Henson - The Philippine Star
Tats to change volley landscape
Ramon “Tatz” Suzara
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF) president Tats Suzara is determined to change the landscape of volleyball in the country and so far, he’s making inroads despite the pandemic. The Premier Volleyball League turned pro and staged an open tournament last August, two women’s teams recently competed in the Asian Clubs Championships in Thailand and the PNVF Champions League is now in progress in Lipa with seven men’s squads in action after F2 topped the six-team women’s division.

“It’s important that we play games,” said Suzara. “We don’t want our sport to die. Our international federation (FIVB) has been very supportive. They gave us a choice of an Italian and two Brazilians to coach our women’s team and we got coach Jorge Edson Souza de Brito of Brazil. For the men’s team, it will be either an Italian or Serbian coach. We’re also getting support from the IOC Olympic Solidarity program. After the SEA Games in May, we’re hoping to host an FIVB competition in June and an Asian event in August before the Asian Games.”

Suzara said the PNVF’s goal is to advance both the men’s and women’s teams to the finals in the coming SEA Games. “Actually, our men’s team is more competitive than the women’s,” he said. “But we want our women to be up there with our men, now that we have a Brazilian coach.” Fil-Hawaiian Kalei Mau will reinforce the women’s squad in the SEA Games, enhancing the chances for a podium finish. The Philippines wasn’t represented in volleyball in the SEA Games from 2007-13. In the last three SEA Games, the women’s team finished fifth and fourth twice while the men’s team improved from sixth to fifth to second.

Suzara said he hopes to bring the men or women or both to the Asian Games next year. The women’s team has skipped the last 14 Asian Games and the men, the last 11. Holding the Champions League was a big step forward for PNVF. “FIVB wants national leagues to be played every year,” he said. “We didn’t want only Manila teams so for the women’s division, we had teams from Baguio, Antipolo and Tuguegarao and for the men’s, Basilan, Himamaylan and Dasmariñas. Playing for the national team requires heart, attitude, time and dedication. For the SEA Games, I’m not sure if our national players from the UAAP and NCAA will be able to join because of a conflict in schedules so I’ve advised coach Jorge to look at our PVL players. I’m planning a training camp for our women’s team in Brazil and for our men’s team in Italy.”

National women’s team captain Aby Maraño said it’s always been her dream to play for the country. “I’m turning 29 (on Dec. 22) and some people think ‘di ko na kayang sabayan mga bata, na laos na ako but for me, age is just a number,” she said. “I’m out there to prove myself, to show I can still compete at a high level. It means working hard, making more sacrifices.” Maraño recently powered F2 to the Champions League title with the Cargo Movers sweeping the competition without dropping a set.

TATS SUZARA
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