De Guzman, PH star setter, says young Thais a force to reckon with
For Philippine women’s volleyball team setter Jia De Guzman, the young Thailand team is still a “juggernaut” even with her idol, Nootsara Tomkom and other veterans absent for their knockout quarterfinal duel on Saturday in the AVC (Asian Volleyball Confederation) 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 the regional powerhouse, which is parading a squad that played 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.”
Teammate Jema Galanza agrees.
“Thailand has been excelling in international tournaments for the past years. What we need to do is focus on ourselves, correct our mistakes and play our hearts out,” Galanza said.
De Guzman, who has steered several squads to titles with her crafty setting, is trusting the Cool Smashers’ system as they hope to pull off an improbable win to reach the semifinals and at the same time learn from the country that has won 12 straight SEA Games crowns.
“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,” 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.
“We know how fast-paced she can set, she has the height,” said De Guzman.
The respect, it turns out, is mutual.
“I met [De Guzman] 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.