With the Japanese government asking all the imports from their various leagues to enter the country in the first two weeks of September, the Philippine national indoor volleyball teams will now miss three of their stars for the upcoming Asian Club Championships.
Jaja Santiago of Saitama Ageo Medics, Bryan Bagunas of Oita Miyoshi Weisse Adler, and Marck Espejo of FC Tokyo will not be suiting up for the national team this October.
The women’s team is slated to play in the women’s club championship on October 1 in Thailand.
“Dapat, ang next ko is to play sa AVC with the national team, pero galing ata sa Japan si Sir Tats (Suzara),” Santiago told the Post-Game as the Asian Senior Women’s Championship has been moved to May next year.
“Ewan ko kung sino ang nakausap niya doon, pero pinayagan niya na ako na bumalik ng Japan to play na sa Ageo.”
On the other hand, men’s national team head coach Dante Alinsunurin bared that Oita and Tokyo will already be in the midst of their season once the men’s tourney begins on October 7, also in Thailand.
“Unang-una, maganda ‘yung communication namin with the club team nila. Natapat lang talaga ‘yung start ng liga nila at start ng AVC,” Alinsunurin told Tiebreaker Times. “Pero siyempre ‘yung AVC na sasalihan natin is for club teams.
“Sumali lang kami dito para makapag-start na kami kasi nga ang daming na-cancel na tournaments, pero for club teams talaga siya.”
The women’s side headed by head coach Odjie Mamon is already bracing for life without Santiago. It has added Kalei Mau, Jema Galanza, and Kat Tolentino to the pool last week. The women’s team will be divided into two in the AVC meet.
The men’s team, on the other hand, has 18 players in the pool.
For Alinsunurin, this will be the chance for the new additions to the team to prove themselves and show that they can compete internationally.
“Nandun pa rin naman ‘yung mga kasama nila dati, tapos nandiyan pa ‘yung mga bago nating pasok. Kumpleto pa rin naman ‘yung team,” Alinsunurin assured. “Talagang malaki ‘yung mawawala sa amin pero siyempre maganda dito ay mabibigyan natin ng pagkakataon ‘yung mga nandito. Makikita natin kung saan ang nilalaro ng men’s team at gaano kalalim ang team natin.
“Malay natin, ‘yung ibang player natin puwede pala makuha sa international. At least, ngayon makikita natin ang mga puwedeng mangyari.”