Fresh from a fruitful training camp in Japan, the Philippine women's volleyball team is all set to represent the country in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.
The team arrived in Manila late Thursday evening and immediately flew to Jakarta Friday morning for the Philippines' first volleyball stint in the quadrennial meet in 36 years.
National coach Shaq Delos Santos shared the improvements that he saw from his players after undergoing rigorous training in Okayama, Japan.
"We learned a lot, especially their fast-paced style of play. Japanese volleyball is really different," Delos Santos said. "We're happy because the team really wanted to learn and adopt what's in Japan. Hopefully, we can return there so we can improve more."
Japanese coach Akiyoshi Kawamoto of the Okayama Seagulls mentored the Philippine team throughout the camp, which included practice sessions in the morning and tune-up games with various Japanese teams in the afternoon.
"At first, our performance was really far from the other teams, but coach Kawamoto patiently guided us. He really wanted to elevate the team because he saw the team's potential," Delos Santos said. "We know that the potential of the team is really high because of the height and athleticism of our players."
Aside from acquiring valuable skills and techniques, the players also learned how to improve their execution by being more relaxed on the court.
"One of the things that the coach there told us is that we need to play calmly," said Delos Santos. "He saw that the players tend to be tight when executing plays. He advised us to be calm so that the team's power will be sustained throughout the game."
Given the limited preparation time, Delos Santos knows that they have barely scratched the surface of what the players can achieve.
"I think we're 60 percent ready based on our performance in Japan," he said about the team's preparedness for the Asian Games. "We know that the level of competition is really tough but we just need to be ready. We'll just fight until the end of the tournament."
Delos Santos also noted that it's an ongoing learning process for the national team. "We won't be able to do it automatically. We just need to work continuously and open our minds that we can do the right thing," he said.
The Philippines will open its Asian Games campaign against Thailand on Sunday, before facing Japan on August 21, Hong Kong on August 23, and Indonesia on August 25.
ESPN5's Renz Ongkiko contributed to this report.