PLDT uses Draft to plug playmaking hole

Angelica Alcantara

Angelica Alcantara—MARLO CUETO/

Being a tactician who is usually guided by calculated numbers, Rald Ricafort has PLDT well-prepared to deal with absences of some of his crew in the upcoming PVL Reinforced Conference.

The team officially announced on Wednesday that veteran setter Rhea Dimaculangan will be missing the import-laced conference after being recently married last month. Not to worry, though. Ricafort had that covered as early as Monday night, when the High Speed Hitters drafted former Adamson playmaker Angelica Alcantara.

“Without bias, even in the Combine, aside from Julia [Coronel], she really shone in terms of skills and tests,” Ricafort told the Inquirer in Filipino.

“One of the things we liked about her is she is kind and approachable which was also kind of a big factor for us,” Ricafort added, laughing. “So we were inclined to get her.”

For the rest of the team’s manpower woes, the remaining standouts will have to step up.

Kim Kianna Dy’s debut with the High Speed Hitters, after switching teams following F2 Logistics disbandment, will still have to wait as she rehabilitates a right knee injury with a realistic timeline of returning by October. Dell Palomata, meanwhile, is still tied up with Alas Pilipinas until August.

The High Speed Hitters still have a hefty number of reliable spikers such as opposite hitters Erika Santos and Jules Samonte, outside attackers Savannah Davison, Fiola Ceballos, Shiela Kiseo, Kiesha Bedonia, Jovie Prado, who missed a year after a left knee injury, and Russian import Elena Samoilenko.

Manning the net are Majoy Baron, Jessey de Leon, Rachel Austero and Mika Reyes, who is now fully recovered from her shoulder injury previously.

The talents available to fit in for the absent players allowed Ricafort to address who will play backup to Kim Fajardo, the team’s other star setter.

Missed out on libero

Coronel was selected by Galeries Tower with the No. 3 pick and with Ricafort also serving as assistant coach previously in Adamson, he knew exactly what Alcantara had to offer at No. 8 overall.

“We were really looking forward to getting her. Our only fear was being beaten to the chase by the other teams [even though we knew that] almost every team was complete in their setters,” Ricafort said as PLDT is set to offer the former Lady Falcon a contract this week.

Ricafort also revealed that PLDT wanted to pick up Alcantara’s teammate libero Karen Verdeflor, whom he thinks is already PVL-ready, as well but was beaten to it by Chery Tiggo that led to the High Speed Hitters passing as early as the second round.

PLDT narrowly missed the semifinals in the last All-Filipino Conference, losing the last spot to Creamline despite both teams being tied at 8-3 (win-loss) and the High Speed Hitters owning a victory over the Cool Smashers. In the end, the tiebreaker went to league points, which Creamline won by one.

Ricafort admitted that Alcantara will help PLDT get over the hump this time and that the Draft was a good way to allow teams equal access to available talent from college.

“I think that this can help the league towards parity [because] we saw teams like ZUS Coffee get decent players at the same time recruitment became fair basically because everyone got a chance,” Ricafort said, comparing the Draft to the previous practice of direct hiring.

“I think that it will be felt immediately because in this conference there will also be imports to help the talented young ones … and [new] teams [will benefit] because normally they don’t get franchise players,” he added.

Nothing has changed for Ricafort in terms of helping PLDT finally clinch an elusive PVL crown.

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“As long as we are healthy, I guess we have higher chances … we are more excited to face the other teams,” Ricafort said. “For sure it won’t be the same story where new teams are hapless, there is no such thing anymore.”