COVID still persists

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

The late withdrawal of Kobe Shinwa Women’s University from participating in the ongoing PVL Invitational semifinals is a stark reminder that COVID remains a daunting challenge for organizers of sporting events. Kobe backed out when a player tested positive in Japan and the entire team was compromised because of exposure. COVID is a reality that confronts the world as society conforms to a new order in coping with the struggles of the times.

When Kobe withdrew, the PVL quickly stepped in to find a replacement and tapped the Philippine team getting ready to see action in the Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) Women’s Cup at the PhilSports Arena on Aug. 21 to 29. The national squad is composed of UAAP champion NU Lady Bulldogs mainstays, including rookie MVP Bella Belen, plus Akari’s Trisha Genesis and California Precision Sports’ Jelai Gajero. National coach Jorge Edson Souza de Brito and federation president Tats Suzara welcomed the entry but NU team manager Mariano See Diet put his foot down and spoiled the party. Diet said the semifinal schedule is too tough and the NU players will be exposed to possible injury.

It would’ve been an acid test for the national team to play in the semifinals with Creamline, PLDT, Cignal, Army and foreign entry King Whale Taipei. How Belen and company will fare against Alyssa Valdez, Tots Carlos, Jema Galanza and Kyla Atienza of Creamline; Toni Basas, Mika Reyes and Dell Palomata of PLDT; Rachel Ann Daquis and Ces Molina of Cignal; Jovy Gonzaga and Jem Gutierrez of Army and the Taipei squad is now something fans can only speculate on.

Diet’s decision not to join the PVL Invitationals led to the federation pulling out the national team from the AVC Cup because “we feel that the student-athletes and coaches, alongside the team manager, may not be able to commit to performing at their best level given a number of restrictions and conditions that hinder the continuous conduct of training and overall program.” Instead, the PVL Invitationals’ best local finishing team will represent the country in the AVC Cup with Genesis and Gajero added to the lineup.

For sure, playing in the AVC Cup will be a severe trial. The Philippines is bracketed in Pool A with Iran, China, South Korea and Vietnam. The national team’s first game will be against Vietnam on Aug. 21. Pool B is made up of Australia, Chinese-Taipei, Japan, Kazakhstan and Thailand. The top four finishers in each pool will advance to the quarterfinals so the goal for the host country is to at least survive the eliminations.

In the PVL Invitationals, fans are being treated to action-packed matches. Last Saturday, Cignal defeated Army, 3-2, and Creamline came from behind to down PLDT, 3-2. Cignal took the first set, 26-24 then dropped the second, 28-26, won the third, 25-18, lost the fourth, 25-18, before barely clinching it in the fifth, 16-14. The other match was just as thrilling. Creamline rebounded from a 0-2 set deficit to sweep the last three, 25-21, 25-19 and 15-12, in a cliffhanger. Now, the race becomes even more interesting because the best local placing team earns the right to compete for the Philippines in the AVC Cup.


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