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These Tornadoes can only get stronger

  • Written by Lito Cinco
  • Published in Opinion
  • Read: 287

I KID you not, these Tornadoes can only get stronger.

But I am not referring to natural tornadoes but  the Foton Tornadoes, my favorite team in the Philippine Super Liga (PSL) and currently, they are now in Thailand for a one week tune up after being invited to join a tough club level tournament featuring 6  Asian teams, this is in preparation for the Asian Women’s Club Volleyball Championship starting at the Alonte Gym in Biñan, Laguna on September 3, a slot  Foton gained by winning last year’s PSL Frand Prix.
The fact is, Foton just finished in second place  at the recently-concluded PSL All-Filipino Conference, bowing down to F2 Logistics in  a best of three series that reached Game 3, an exciting  championship series that attracted a big crowd of volleyball fans   to the Flying V Arena in San Juan, including me of course.
It could have gone either way  as in Game 3,  Foton took the first set but faltered when it mattered most in sets 3 and 4, I had  short chat with F2 head coach Ramil de Jesus  while waiting for the awarding ceremonies  to begin and he  said the turning point for him was  when his girls  took the second set and regained their confidence after  losing set 1, on the other hand, losing coach Vilet Ponce de Leon saw the third set as the crucial one as the game was close going into the closing minutes of the game  but her wards committed  a service error that shifted  momentum to F2.
The truth  is that  the Tornadoes made too many mistakes, a lot of them unforced errors particularly when serving, and Vilet agreed, there were just too many of those errors, ruining the team’s chance  of  accomplishing back to back title  wins.
As I told  former team manager Alvin Lu, who was asked by the team owner to focus  on his core job on the corporate side, Alvin  handles   dealer development for Foton, and was replaced by former assistant coach Jose Mari Angulo, this year’s team  is the strongest  assembled so far in  the team’s  short history, rookie player Cherry Rondina and EJ Laure, both from UST are in the starting line-up already, while earlier additions like Maika Ortiz and Rhea Dimaculangan  have proved to be steadying figures for  the team that also features Jaja Santiago, Angeli Araneta, Patty Jane Orendain, Bia General, May Macatuno, and Ivy Perez.
After that Game 3 finals,  together with other  media guys in the PSL beat, I went to Hai kang  in Greenhills for a post celebration and was seated with PSL chairman Philip Ella Juico who said it  was as if Foton had won the championship as the venue overflowed with the team members, some with their families , the owners and their  guests, employees composing  the Blue Army of Foton’s supporters. Last year’s PSL Grand Prix  MVP Lindsay Stalzer, who led Foton to its first championship, and new team mate for this year, Ariel Usher, were also present as they will reinforce the team  in the Thailand tournament, together with guest players Aby Marano and Jen reyes though I heard that for   the current tournament in Thailand, those who did not make it or  were not included, were Jaja, Kara Acevedo, Carol cerveza, Danna Henson, and Shirley Salamagos, another guest player Jovelyn Gonmzaga also did not make it to Sisaket in Thailand.
The presence of Lindsay and Ariel  is another reason  why I say these Tornadoes can only get stronger, last year’s partner for Lindsay, Katie Messing, I heard from Juico has decided to stop playing and opted to look for a more regular employment, for those who  have followed the PSL, I am sure they will agree that a Stalzer-Usher combination in the next Grand Prix , will be  an even more explosive duo than Lindsay and Messing.
The bonding time  that these girls will have in Thailand  and followed by their stint in the Asian  Club championship, can only  make the team more  cohesive and more experienced for the Grand Prix.
Then how about the fact that Jaja’s elder sister, Dindin Manabat-Santiago, who just gave birth last  month, is officially a Foton Tornado already but I guess not  in time for the Grand Prix  as she   has to take care of her baby first.
This was announced the following night after Game 3 in a press conference called by Foton management and can you imagine Jaja and Dindin playing together  with the rest of the other Tornadoes, boy, that would be a sight to see and I will expect a more motivated Jaja playing  as  she has told me it  is her dream to play along side her “ate”.
But then  that presscon was not called just to announce Dindin’s joining the team but  for an even bigger announcement that certainly took a lot of people, especially the people concerned, the coaching staff and the players, I knew about it earlier but  respected the request not to talk about it, Foton has secured the services of Italian coach Fabio Menta to take over  as head coach, certainly a bold  but  risky decision on the part of Foton management.
With his extensive international experience, Fabio can certainly help Foton move to another level and in that first meeting with us media guys, I liked the straight to the point  answers he gave on what he sees and what he plans for the team, he says the team is already strong but they need to work on both  the technical and tactical aspects, and when I asked him to  be more specific, he explained that passing the ball quicker  is  a definite area for improvement, it has to be quicker as there is  a need to cach up with that type of game  in international competitions.
Fabio also talked about  coming up with  a distinctly Filipino way of playing saying there is that need to identify “our own soul and spirit  as a team”, words that may  seem new  to the team members  now  but once they have  understood  it, will certainly help them in their development as individuals and as a team.
The only risk I see is how quickly Fabio can establish rapport with his players, how they will be able to relate to him as  their new coach, and how quickly they will be able to overcome the emotional shock of that new development in the team, I engaged Vilet  after the formal press con but she opted not to talk at that time, but as a professional, I am sure  she will eventually understand and accept  it, after all, there is nothing new  in that  come to think of it.
Now, can you understand why I am saying   I am expecting  stronger Tornadoes  to come?