Jovelyn Gonzaga, Nene Bautista skip PVL to focus on national team duties
MANILA, Philippines — Black Mamba-Army is going to miss the services of star spiker Jovelyn Gonzaga and Nene Bautista in the 2022 Premier Volleyball League Open Conference beginning on Wednesday at the Paco Arena.
The Lady Troopers begin life without their two reliable outside hitters in welcoming the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers at 3 pm to kick-off their Pool A campaign.
Gonzaga and Bautista begged off this conference to focus on the Philippine women’s beach volleyball team, which flew to Brisbane, Australia on Tuesday evening for its two-week Southeast Asian Games preparation.
The former Philippine women’s volleyball team captain, who has been playing for Army since 2014, said she and Bautista had to skip this conference to heed the call of the beach volleyball national squad that seeks to surpass its previous bronze medal finish in the 31st SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam on May 12.
“We were called to serve the country,” said the 30-year-old in Filipino during their virtual send off. “We are here to perform and the Philippine Army understands our responsibility for the country. Our mother team is very supportive.”
Gonzaga, who last played in the 2011 Indonesia SEA Games with Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, is eager to deliver a great performance for her to give back to the trust of the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF) and women’s beach volleyball coach Paul Jan Doloiras.
“I am so grateful to the coaching staff and PNVF for trusting me and Nene to be part of the beach volleyball training pool,” she added.
The Central Philippine University standout is paired with Dij Rodriguez in their Brisbane build-up. Sisi Rondina and Bernadeth Pons will be representing the first team, while Bautista is teaming up with Gen Eslapor in the two-week camp, where they will also join two pocket tournaments with the men’s six-member pool.
Despite the absence of Gonzaga and Bautista, Army is still in good hands with veteran spiker Honey Royse Tubino and newcomers Mich Morente, Aiko Urdas and former NCAA MVP Necole Ebuen to fill in for the hard-hitting pair.
“They (new players) are not having a hard time adjusting to our team since they already experienced playing in the pros. We (holdovers) are jelling well with them so far. We just have to push them harder since they are filling in for Jovelyn,” Tubino said. “They just signed to our team last month but they are slowly adapting to our system.”
Army is slated in Pool A with F2 Logistics, reigning champion Chery Tiggo, Choco Mucho and Cignal, where the team with the worst record will be eliminated.
Tubino said they will take it one game at a time, focusing first on F2 Logistics, led by Aby Marano, Kim Fajardo, Ara Galang, Kianna Dy, Majoy Baron and Dawn Macandili.
“F2 is a strong and intact team. But let’s see because we prepared well for this conference. We will give them a good fight hoping to win our first assignment,” she said.