Mark Torcaso’s tenure as the new head coach of the Philippine Women’s National Football Team has commenced with his selection of new faces for his first training camp before the upcoming Asian Games in China this month.
Torcaso, who signed a two-year contract to lead the Filipinas, has called up players who recently represented the country in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, along with talented homegrown players and young standouts eager to represent the Philippines on the international stage.
“All the players are available for the Asian Games, which is excellent,” said the current Western United mentor.
“Obviously, some of them have commitments now with clubs that they’ve just either signed for or they’ve been with or committed to. Our expectations are that they’ll be there for the Asian Games and we’ll just pick the best possible side that’s available and be as prepared for them as possible.”
The training camp includes goalkeeper Kaiya Jota, defender Sofia Harrison, captain Hali Long, midfielders Anicka Castaneda, and Jaclyn Sawicki, all of whom were part of the last World Cup team. Also joining them are Inna Palacios, Isabella Pasion, and Maya Alcantara, who served as reserves in the previous tournament.
Players with senior-level experience for the country, such as Camille Rodriguez, Shai del Campo, Shiela Mae Cadag, Maye Mendano, Bhebe Lemoran, and Hazel Lustan, have also been called up.
In recent training sessions, senior players have trained and interacted with counterparts from the Girls Under-17 side, which will compete in the second round of the 2024 AFC U-17 Women’s Asian Cup qualification stage. Torcaso’s assistant, Sinisha Cohadzic, will coach this team. They will face host nation Vietnam, Australia, and Bangladesh in Group B, with the top two finishers advancing to the final tournament.
“It’s been amazing. I think the first training session that we had, we had some of the World Cup girls returning, we had some of the 15, 16-year-old girls with us so it was amazing. I think it was a great idea to have both groups together,” said Torcaso.
“It allowed us as coaches to see the younger girls going into the Asian qualifiers as well in the next few weeks so it was good for them to prepare and train with the senior players and be organized for that. But yeah it was really just exciting some of them. I’m absolutely in awe to have some of the senior girls that have come back from the World Cup.”
Newcomers to the team include goalkeeper Mykaella Abeto, UAAP Season 85 standouts Jonela Albino, Sarahgen Tulabing, Angelica Teves, and Dionesa Tolentin, defenders Catherine Calatin and Zoe Hudson, midfielders Jade Anna Jalique, Natalie Oca, Demely Rollow, and forwards Isabella Bandoja, Lanie Ortillo, and Elaine Pimentel.
While the challenge of performing well in the Asian Games may be significant due to the short turnaround time from the last World Cup, Torcaso embraces the task ahead and wants the Filipinas to make the most of their opportunity to compete in such a prestigious event.
“There are always areas of improvement because, you know, obviously there’s been some success over the last couple of years with this team. It’s only by expectation that we continue that success,” he said.
“We’ll prioritize still being as successful as possible and representing this country proudly. But more importantly, just going out there and enjoying what they do — that’s the most important thing for these players. (They need to) just enjoy playing the game and representing their country.”