Alyssa Valdez, Jaja Santiago lead PH women’s volleyball team for SEA Games

FILE–Jaja Santiago (left) and Alyssa Valdez are generally regarded as the two best players in the country today. —PVL

MANILA, Philippines–Alyssa Valdez and Jaja Santiago headline the 16-member Philippine women’s volleyball team for the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam in May.

The Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF) bared the list of 16 players bound to Brazil on April 12 during its virtual press conference on Tuesday.

PNVF president Tats Suzara also confirmed that it is also the final line up to be coached by Brazilian Jorge Souza de Brito in the country’s bid to end the 17-year medal drought in SEA Games women’s volleyball.

Valdez is set for her fourth SEA Games appearance, while Santiago is making her return in the biennial meet after missing the 2019 edition due to conflict with Japan V.League’s schedule.

Aby Marano is also set for her fourth consecutive biennial tournament.

Mylene Paat, who brought home the Best Scorer plum in the recently-concluded Volleyball Thailand League, and fellow mainstays Ces Molina, Dawn Macandili, Kat Arado and Ria Meneses were also selected as well as SEA Games first timers Jema Galanza, Deanna Wong, Kat Tolentino, Iris Tolenada and Dell Palomata as well as high school stars from California Academy, Jelai Gajero and Casiey Dongallo.

Majoy Baron, who was snubbed in the initial 20-member pool, was surprisingly called up by Souza de Brito and his coaching staff in the final line-up.

PNVF president Tats Suzara said Filipina-American spiker Kalei Mau, star playmaker Jia Morado, Nakhon Ratchasima import Dindin Santiago-Manabat, Champions League MVP Kianna Dy and Jasmine Nabor declined to join the national team.

“Yes (that is the final line-up for SEA Games. The (five) declined to be in National team,” said Suzara in a text message after the press conference.

Mau, who is currently in Dallas playing in Athletes’ Unlimited this month, was surprisingly not on the list after she changed her federation from USA Volleyball to PNVF July last year.

Thirteen of the 16 national team members will be playing in the 2022 Premier Volleyball League Open Conference starting on Wednesday until April 9, while Santiago is currently leading Ageo Medics in the final stretch of elimination games in Japan V.League.

“They have PVL starting this Wednesday. They have a month-long competition because it’s still club season based on the FIVB calendar. They will end this short tournament in April 9. Then on April 12, our teams will travel to Brazil for the first time,” said Suzara. “We’re going on the other side of the globe to have a two-week extensive training just before the SEA Games.”

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