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Antolihao, Blu Girls hope to get overseas training ahead of World Cup

The Philippine women’s softball team will need all the experience it can get as it prepares for the 2023 World Cup scheduled from July 22 to 26 in Italy.

The Blu Girls advanced to the World Cup for the first time since 2018 following their fourth-place finish in the recent Women’s Softball Asia Cup in Incheon, South Korea, where they had a 5-3 record.

Somehow, it was mission accomplished for the Blu Girls, ranked No. 4 in Asia. However, in Italy, they will be grouped with tougher teams such as Japan, Canada, Venezuela, New Zealand, and Italy.

“That’s why we need more foreign exposure. Alam naman ng coaches natin na ‘yun ang kulang,” said team captain and starting pitcher Ann Antolihao in Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex.

“We’re happy na nakabalik tayo sa World Cup,” added Antolihao during the forum presented by San Miguel Corporation, Philippine Sports Commission, Philippine Olympic Committee, MILO Philippines, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

Joining Antolihao were hitter CJ Roa and catcher Celine Ojare, who reiterated the need for foreign exposure heading to the World Cup, where the top two teams will earn seedings for the 2024 edition.

The Blu Girls made it to the World Cup with an all-homegrown lineup, under the guidance of coaches Randy Dizer, Ana Santiago, Ron Pagkaliwagan, and Anthony Santos, and with the support of Amateur Softball Association of the Philippines (ASAPHIL) president Jean Henri Lhuillier.

If given a choice, Roa said they would prefer a foreign training camp in Japan, where they could have a field day playing tune-up matches with top teams.

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“High-level training talaga sa Japan kahit sa tuneup games with university schools. Kaya kung bibigyan kami ng chance, sana sa Japan,” said the slugger from University of Santo Tomas.

“Skills-wise meron naman po tayo dito. Pero kulang tayo sa exposure,” added Roa.

The Blu Girls played eight games in Incheon, beating Hong Kong (7-0), South Korea (2-0), Singapore (8-1), Thailand (10-0), and India (10-0) but lost to Japan (9-1) despite taking a 4-0 lead in the first inning, China (6-2), and Chinese-Taipei (5-0).

Antolihao said there is no final lineup yet for the World Cup, and the decision will be up to the coaches. The team will resume training on April 24.

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