After a decent showing in a Thailand tournament last week, Foton Pilipinas is eyeing at least a quarterfinal finish in the Asian Women’s Club Championship that starts this weekend in Laguna, according to new coach Fabio Menta.
The home team is grouped in Pool A with teams like Hong Kong and Vietnam and fans are optimistic that the squad led by Lindsay Stalzer, Ariel Usher, Jov Gonzaga and Jaja Santiago will make it past the preliminary round.
“I know it’s easy to say semifinals and finals. I’ve heard it so many times,” Menta told FOX Sports. “I’m looking at the quarterfinals as the first goal because that’s doable.”
“In sports, you know that you can never say this is easy because that’s the day you lose. We don’t think it’s gonna be easy, we think that it’s a good challenge for us and we know that if we play as well as we played in Thailand against Bangkok Glass without Jaja and Jov in that occasion, then we can make it,” he added.
In winning 2 of 5 matches in Thailand, Foton was also able to snatch a set from reigning Asian champions Bangkok Glass, earning the respect of top mentor Kittipong Pornchartyingcheep.
With Stalzer and Usher in tow, Menta hopes his setters take advantage of their powerful attackers in the tournament.
“Distribution is very important and the setters are working hard. We’re making sure that they understand that all the players on the court have to be used at the right rotation,” he explained. “This is a new game. I’m bringing the attacking from 5 different positions. We are definitely involving all the players on the court to score.”
And while the American reinforcements will be leaned upon when the going gets tough, the Italian coach believes the Filipinos in his team have what it takes to contribute in the biggest stage in the continent.
“The girls are wonderful. We have to work hard on technique and improve a lot of that because the level of the game in the Philippines is not too developed. When it comes to schemes and movements on the court, that’s my toughest task,” he said.
“But they’re absorbing quite well on everything. That’s why only after two games we already played good level against Bangkok Glass. Everything is fine. They are very focused on what I say. I see things on the court improving everyday so I’m very optimistic about that.”
Menta, however, is realistic when he stressed Foton won’t get past Asian powerhouse squads like China, Thailand and Japan.
“Japan is out of our reach, like China and Thailand. Honestly, if I say that we could beat Japan I’m a fool because that’s not gonna happen,” he said.
Nonetheless, he thinks a familiar battlecry will help them spring a miracle or two in the next few days.
“But we do play hard and almost made a miracle against Bangkok Glass in Thailand, so why not. We’re gonna be there and fight hard. I learned this word PUSO. So we’re gonna put our heart in that.” — By Joyce Palad