The Philippine women's volleyball team held its first practice in Indonesia Friday evening for the 2018 Asian Games. Players and coaches traveled from Osaka to Manila to Jakarta in less than 24 hours but they wasted no time and immediately buckled down to work.
The national squad spent almost two weeks training in Japan to polish the players' skills and develop chemistry. The team made sure to resume practice upon arrival in Indonesia to work on the players' conditioning ahead of the Philippines' first match on August 19.
Fatigue caught up with the team towards the end of the session but head coach Shaq Delos Santos still appreciates the players' efforts.
"We all know how they play, and for us, it's their conditioning that's missing. But what's important is that we got to work out and we were able to do the necessary drills," he said. "Hopefully, we can recover and we can apply what we learned in Japan."
For national team veteran Alyssa Valdez, adjusting to a hectic schedule is just part of their duty as national athletes.
"I think there are rewards for our sacrifice for the country, and as an athlete, we live for moments like this," she said. "It's very tiring but at the same time, this pushes us to keep on going. We're just really happy [to be] given this opportunity, because of course not everyone is given an opportunity to represent the country."
It's been 36 years since the Philippines last sent a volleyball contingent to the quadrennial meet. Skipper Aby Maraño is happy to see her teammates' determination to fight for the flag despite knowing that competition will be tough.
"I saw in the team that we are really determined in practice. We have that push to execute the coaches' instructions. Everybody's listening and well-motivated and we can really see that the team wants to prove something," said Maraño.
"Though we're saying that it's the first time that Philippine volleyball joined the Asian Games again, all of us here will try our luck," she added. "Whatever we get here, lessons or something that will elevate volleyball for the Philippine team, we can bring all these when we go home."
The Philippines is set to take on last Asiad's bronze medalist Thailand on Sunday before facing Japan, Hong Kong, and Indonesia in Pool A.
"We just need to perform well and give our best because of course we prepared for this. We need to enjoy what we're doing," Delos Santos said. "Hopefully we can get a win in our bracket first, then after that, it will be huge if we enter the quarterfinals. For now, our goal is to win in the elimination first."
Information from ESPN5's Sid Ventura was used in this report.