Southeast Asian volleybelles every Filipino fans should watch out for this SEA Games

The day of reckoning is upon the Philippine national women’s volleyball team with their 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games schedule just around the corner.

Coming off a relatively successful campaign in the 2019 ASEAN Grand Prix, the tricolor squad looks to conclude the season in glory as they seek to end their podium finish drought in the biennial meet since 2005.

Headlining the squad are mainstays Alyssa Valdez, Jia Morado, Aby Marano, Mylene Paat, and Dawn Macandili, who will try to clinch the country’s first gold medal finish since 1993.

However, their title campaign will be met with intense competition, as three other equally strong teams–Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand–are vying for the regional tournament crown.

With the women’s volleyball tournament on the precipice, Fox Sports PH lists down key players per country to watch out for.

Megawati Hangestri Pertiwi (Indonesia)

The strength of Indonesia’s women’s volleyball team is centered around their reliable wing spikers who serve as their main scorers. One of them is Megawati Hangestri Pertiwi, who turned out to be a problem for the Philippines in their most recent meeting.

The 6-foot-1 opposite hitter led Indonesia in their win against the Philippines in the second leg of the ASEAN Grand Prix with 26 points. With her steady showing all throughout the tournament, she received the Best Opposite Spiker award.

Megawati’s performance all throughout the tournament proved deadly for the tricolor squad, with her frontline kills just as good as her backrow attacks. Blocking would be crucial for the Philippines if they want to stop Indonesia from taking another trip to the finals.

Ratri Wulandari (Indonesia)

With power spiker Aprilia Manganang possibly missing action in Indonesia’s SEA Games campaign, it is imperative for the other open hitters to step up and provide the much-needed scoring for the team.

One of the players expected to rise up to the challenge is open spiker Ratri Wulandari, another steady scorer for Indonesia in the ASEAN Grand Prix. The Philippines also had a hard time with the 5-foot-10 spiker, who scored 12 points atop a triple-double performance to help Megawati in their win over the tricolor squad in the second leg.

The youngest player in the team at 17 years old, Ratri has proven to be the future for Indonesia with her all-around game. The 2017 SEA Games silver medalists will need more from the young open spiker as they look for their first gold medal finish since 1983.

Tran Thị Thanh Thúy (Vietnam)

With Vietnam missing their reliable middle blockers back in the 2017 Asian Women’s Volleyball Championship, the pressure is greater for the current team to find new steady scorers.

However, their main star, Tran Thi Thanh Thuy, is still with Vietnam as she seeks to lead her squad to their first gold medal finish in the SEA Games. While she missed the second leg of the ASEAN Grand Prix, the 6-foot-4 open spiker has been Vietnam’s leading scorer for their previous regional and international campaigns.

The Philippine national team is no stranger to Tran Thi Thanh Thuy’s game, having faced the 22-year-old spiker since 20175. Alyssa Valdez also previously teamed up with the Vietnamese spiker for club team Attack Line in the Chinese Taipei Volleyball League.

Pimpichaya Kokram (Thailand)

The volleyball queens of Southeast Asia, Thailand has been at the top of the SEA Games since 1995. With their 11 straight titles in the regional tournament, the Thais have always been the team to beat in the regional meet.

Thailand’s success has been anchored in its long-term program, where the national team is regularly refurbished with younger players teaming up with veterans in their international campaigns. One of those players is Pimpichaya Kokram, a 5-foot-10 opposite spiker who has been a major force for Thailand for the past years.

Kokram led their straight-set onslaught against the Philippines in the second leg of the ASEAN Grand Prix, scoring 11 markers. One of the most reliable attackers for the 11-time SEA Games champions, the opposite spiker establishes her effectivity with Thailand’s trademark low-fast offense.

Onuma Sittirak (Thailand)

No one can talk about Thailand’s regional supremacy without mentioning squad veteran Onuma Sittirak. The 5-foot-9 open spiker is regarded as one of her country’s best women’s volleyball players, having won numerous accolades and titles with Thailand.

A part of the national team since 2006, Sittirak is known for her lethal open kills and heavy service game. She recently received the Most Valuable Player award after leading her squad to a title in the first leg of the ASEAN Grand Prix.

Sittirak is just one of the vital cogs comprising Thailand’s dominance in the biennial meet, with players such as Wilavan Apinyapong and Pleumjit Thinkaow still wreaking havoc for the squad. Both net and floor defense will be crucial for the Philippines if they want to neutralize Thailand’s fast-tempo game and create transition plays.

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