AVC Cup: Jia De Guzman says young Thais still ‘juggernaut’ ahead of quarters clash
MANILA, Philippines — For Philippine women’s volleyball team setter Jia De Guzman, the young Thailand team is still a “juggernaut” even without her idol Nootsara Tomkom and the veterans in their knockout quarterfinal duel on Saturday in the AVC Cup at PhilSports Arena.
De Guzman, who faced Tomkom, Pleumjit Thinkaow and the Thai veterans in several Southeast Asian Games and international matches, is bracing for a new generation of Thailand, which is parading a squad that saw action in the Volleyball Nations League.
“Well everyone saw how they played in VNL. They’re a very strong team. They went up against the strongest teams around the world,” said the national team skipper after their 25-18, 25-13, 25-17 victory over South Korea on Thursday.
“They’re a young team, but they’re very cohesive. They’ve been training together for years. We can’t be complacent.
Morado, who missed the opener but helped her team to a 2-2 finish in Pool A for its first quarterfinal appearance in the AVC Cup, is trusting the team’s system as they hope to pull off an improbable win to reach the semifinals and at the same time learn from the reigning 12-time SEA Games champion.
“Thailand is a juggernaut but we believe in our system. Regardless, whatever the results are when we go up against Thailand, we know that it is going to be a learning experience. We will do our best to give a good fight against them,” De Guzman said.
“We’re just happy to reach (the quarterfinals). We sacrificed a lot, this whole year, for the past years. It just goes to show that it’s easier to achieve things when you’re training in a system, a long-term program, and everyone believes in the system. And everyone’s just really disciplined, and all hard work is bearing fruit now,” she added.
The Ateneo standout is also bracing for her head-to-head against Thai setter Pornpun Guedpard, who became the country’s top playmaker after Tomkom retired from her national team duties two years ago.
“Pornpun is playing for the national team for the longest time. We know how fast-paced she can set, she has the height. So we will do our best that we can,” said De Guzman, who is back on the national team for the first time since the 2019 SEA Games.
Pornpun also respects De Guzman’s game as she is set to distribute the load to her Thai spikers, led by Chatchu-on Moksri and Pimpichaya Kokram, against Creamline’s troika Jema Galanza, Tots Carlos, and Michele Gumabao.
“I met her in the SEA Games. She is a very good player, a very good setter. I think she can bring the best of them,” said Pornpun on De Guzman.
In other quarterfinal matches, Pool A sweeper China will face Pool B’s No. 4 Australia at 2 p.m., while Pool B topnotcher Japan will play Pool A’s No. 4 Iran at 5 p.m.
Pool A runner-up Vietnam and Pool B’s third placer Chinese-Taipei will open hostilities at 11 a.m. as the semifinals will be played Sunday while the medal and classification matches will be held on Monday.
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