Among the top stars who could be the foundation for the national pool are (from left): Eya Laure, Jennifer Nierva, Faith Nisperos, Mhicaela Belen, Imee Hernandez, Camilla Lamina and Alyssa Solomon. —PHOTOS FROMUAAPMEDIA

Among the top stars who could be the foundation for the national pool are (from left): Eya Laure, Jennifer Nierva, Faith Nisperos, Mhicaela Belen, Imee Hernandez, Camilla Lamina and Alyssa Solomon. —PHOTOS FROM UAAPMEDIA

The race to get varsity leagues in sync with the national program has began in earnest, as officials of the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF) have opened discussions with schools in a bid to field the country’s top collegiate stars for major international events, including the Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) in August.

But the PNVF is not stopping there: The federation will move to get the cooperation of these schools to let their stars form the core of the national pool.

“We’re moving towards that but we will really need the help of the schools for this,” PNVF board member Ricky Palou told the Inquirer late Tuesday evening.

“What the PNVF leadership has written to the schools is that we want them to be our partners in this program,” Palou explained. “After all, they will also benefit because we will be giving these players added training and international experience.”

In the initial proposal to the schools, the national pool will borrow these collegiate stars for the international volleyball federation (FIVB) competition window that runs from May 16 to Oct. 15. Palou is hoping that schools will lend their players once a week during the collegiate season and during weekdays in the off-season.

Palou said there was interest from several schools to support the program, but it will take a lot of heavy lifting before all stakeholders can forge an official agreement.

“This is a big chance for us because right now, there is a lot of talent in the college level,” Palou said. “We are hoping to take advantage of this, train them early for the national team and really maximize their potential. [PNVF president] Ramon Suzara is going to ask school leagues if they can start their tournament earlier.”

Earlier in the day, speaking at the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA), PNVF national teams commission chair Tonyboy Liao said the federation has already shortlisted 22 names handpicked by national team coach Jorge Souza de Brito and his staff and will ask permission from the schools to release the players for the AVC Cup slated Aug. 21 to Aug. 28.

“We are just waiting for the reply of the universities of those who were invited if they will be released,” he said.

No names were released during the PSA Forum but already, the front-runners include UAAP Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year winner Mhicaela Belen of National University (NU), vaunted scorer Eya Laure of University of Santo Tomas (UST) and ace spiker Faith Nisperos of Ateneo, who had already teamed up to play for the country during the 2021 AVC Asian women’s club championship in Thailand.

They could be joined by other standouts from that event, among them UST middle blocker Imee Hernandez, NU libero Jen Nierva and Alyssa Solomon, who was part of the bubble training last year but didn’t play in the tournament. Other possible names who could make the squad are setters Camilla Lamina (NU) and Louie Romero (Adamson) and middle blocker Thea Gagate of La Salle.

These names could be the core for the national women’s program, Palou said.

Liao said the failure of the national teams to make the podium in the recent Southeast Asian (SEA) Games forced the PNVF to start building the AVC squad from the country’s roster of collegiate stars.“[T]he PNVF Board has decided for the upcoming AVC Cup, which will happen on August 21, we will be choosing players from the collegiate level,” said Liao. “If we will again get players from the [Premier Volleyball League], which will have an ongoing invitational, they won’t have time to train with the national team, like what happened for the SEA Games.” INQ

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