Spikers fly in from Tokyo, head right away to Jakarta

MANILA, Philippines — With high hopes, members of the Philippine women’s volleyball team will board an 8 a.m. Air Asia flight to Jakarta today, barely hours after arriving from a weeklong training in Okayama, Japan.

The team, led by Alyssa Valdez, Jaja Santiago and skipper Aby Marano, arrived from Osaka at 10 p.m. last night, and had very little or no time to rest before heading to the Asian Games.

They will arrive in the Indonesian capital at around noon, and will be given ample time to rest and settle in at the Athletes Village, the day before the Games formally open.

Peter Cayco, president of the Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc., said it was a common consensus within the team to skip Saturday’s opening ceremony.

“They are skipping the opening ceremony so they could practice on Saturday in time for Sunday’s game against Thailand,” Cayco said of the team supported by TV5, Rebisco, Air Asia, Asics, Mikasa, Gatorade and American Tourister.

“They would rather have an extra day of practice than join the parade,” Cayco said of the opening ceremony at the Gelora Bung Karno Main Stadium.

Thousands of athletes and officials from the 45 participating nations will join the traditional parade, where NBA player Jordan Clarkson will carry the Philippine flag.

It’s the first time in 36 years that the Philippines is fielding a team in women’s volleyball in the Asian Games, and Filipino volleyball officials are keeping their fingers crossed.

“The goal remains the same. We want to get to the quarterfinals,” said Cayco.

To make that happen, the Philippines will have to beat Hong Kong or host Indonesia.

The two others in their bracket are Thailand, the 2014 bronze medalist in Incheon, and Japan, always a force to reckon with.

In the other bracket are reigning Asian Games champion South Korea, 2016 Rio Olympics gold medalist China, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Chinese Taipei and India.

“We beat Hong Kong and we’re in the quarterfinals. We’re also confident that we can get past Indonesia,” added Cayco.

The seven-day training in Okagawa gave the players the extra boost heading to the Asian Games.

“The Japanese coach said this team was better than the one we sent to Japan for training last year,” said Cayco.