By John Bryan Ulanday

THE Philippine women’s national volleyball team finally gets to test the waters in an official tournament when it battles against three other countries in the historic ASEAN Grand Prix today at the Terminal 21 Mall in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand.

Fresh from a 12-day training camp in Bangkok that included scrimmages against Thailand national team and Japan ball club, the Nationals try to apply the lessons they have learned in their first real test against Indonesia at 3 p.m. (Manila time) as part of their build-up to the upcoming 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) hosting later this year.

“We learned a lot from the training camp, every match we felt that we are getting better. Conditioning-wise and skills, we are good,” said head coach Shaq Delos Santos who is joined by Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc., (LVPI) president Joey Romasanta and secretary general Ariel Paredes in the Rebisco-backed team’s Thailand trip.

The Nationals, however, will be playing without ace hitter Alyssa Valdez who suffered an unfortunate ankle injury just before her departure to Thailand to join her teammates.

Still, Mr. Delos Santos is confident on his skillful wards for the ASEAN GP with the presence of enough seasoned volleyball players like skipper Aby Marano, Ces Molina, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas and Jovelyn Gonzaga.

“These are mostly veteran players. They can make do with what’s given. We will do our best under the circumstance,” added Delos Santos as the Nationals also take on Thailand and Vietnam over the weekend.

Out to provide added firepower to the shorthanded Nationals is the Fil-Am scoring sensation Kalei Mau coming from a rewarding championship and MVP season with F2 Logistics in the Philippine SuperLiga All-Filipino tourney.

Ms. Mau will be joined in a collective Philippine women volleyball team effort by Mylene Paat and Eya Laure together with middle blockers Majoy Baron, Roselyn Doria and Maddie Madayag.

Also in the mix in the team to provide a tough floor defense are liberos Kath Arado and Dawn Macandili as well as facilitators and setters Jia Morado and Alohi Robins-Hardy.

This ASEAN GP, which is the first ever volleyball event in the Southeast Asian region history, will have a second leg to be hosted by the Philippines on Oct. 4 to 6 in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.