Filipino-American setter Iris Tolenada and premiere hitters Aby Maraño and Dindin Manabat lead a solid cast of Philippine SuperLiga (PSL) stars who will banner the country in the 18th Asian Senior Women’s Championships in Tianjin and Beijing, China from May 20 to 28.
A former Most Valuable Player in the highly-competitive California Collegiate Athletic Association and now seeing action for Philips Gold in the ongoing PSL All-Filipino Conference, Tolenada is tipped to make her presence felt to help the Nationals regain their lofty status in the international stage after decades of silence.
She will be backed by Maraño and Manabat — a pair of hard-hitting stalwarts who have been carrying Petron to an impressive six-game winning run in the PSL wars.
Cignal mentor Sammy Acaylar will be the head coach while serving as his deputies are Francis Vicente of Philips Gold, Rosemary Prochina of Mane ‘N Tail and Benson Bocboc of Shopinas.com.
The 18-person lineup was already submitted to the Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) and the organizing committee of this tournament billed as the highest level of volleyball competition in the continent. It will be trimmed down to final 12 at least a week before the opening day.
“This is part of our commitment to the newly-formed national sports association for volleyball — the Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc.,” said PSL president Ramon “Tats” Suzara.
“I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the team owners, coaches and players who gave us their valuable time and resources for this noble endeavor. I hope this will trigger the start of our return to the international arena.”
Aside from Toleneda, also making the pool from Philips Gold are Shaya Adorador, Melissa Gohing, Michele Gumabao and Myla Pablo while Petron will be represented by Manabat, Maraño, Carmina Aganon, Mary Grace Masangkay, Frances Molina and Ivy Perez. Cignal by Jheck Dionela, Jeanette Panaga, Janine Navarro, Lourdes Clemente and Rica Jane Enclona.
Rising star Kim Dy is the lone representative from Shopinas.com as well as Aby Praca from Mane ‘N Tail.
“This is a fighting team,” Acaylar said. “They may not win it all, but I can see the fire in their eyes, so rest assured that they will go down hard and fight for the country with all their might.”
The Philippines, which placed 12th out of 16 competitors in the previous edition in Nakhon Ratchasima in Thailand in 2013, is bracketed in Group D together with Kazakhstan, South Korea and Oceania superpower Australia.
Bunched in Group A are the host country, India, Fiji Islands and Iran; in Group B are reigning champion Thailand, Chinese Taipei, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong; and in Group C are Japan, Turkmekistan, Vietnam and Mongolia.
The Nationals will open their bid in the preliminaries against the Aussies on May 20.