Despite the struggles and limited resources to prepare for the event, the Philippine women's handball team made history as it managed to claim a ticket for its first trip to the World Beach Handball Championship set next year.
The national team, led by its head coach Jana Franquelli clinched one of two spots as it joined undefeated Vietnam during the 9th Asian Beach Handball Championship held March 10 to 19 in Bali, Indonesia.
“We made history and we earned the respect of other nations,” Franquelli told the Manila Times in an interview Monday, March 20 following the team's arrival. “It was all worth it, we know that we have a team capable of getting the job done.”
Vietnam, Indonesia, Hong Kong and the Philippines played in a double round robin with the top two earning spots in the 2024 World Championship. The host country has yet to be named by the world body of handball.
The national team defeated Hong Kong and Indonesia twice, and lost to Vietnam in their two meetings. With a 4-2 card, the Philippine team finished behind the perfect 6-0 record of Vietnam.
From the original team that competed in the Southeast Asian Beach Handball Championship back in 2017 Dumaguete, only Aurora Adriano and Marilourd Scocorro Borja were the only holdovers, as others were recruited from the Army or Navy, or former basketball and volleyball national team members.
The team was formed last January, with Adriano taking the lead in finding the talents and right mix for the women's handball team.
In the end, they got Camille Sambille, Zharmaine Velez, Janelle Mendoza, Zhalyn Mateo, Josephine Ong, Rapril Aguilar, Gretchir Roque and Nathalia Prado. With Franquelli and Adriano on the coaching staff are Tomas Luis Telan, Bernadette Mercado and Luzviminda Pacubas.
Franquelli said the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), led by its new chairman Dicky Bachmann, was the main reason why they were able to compete in the Bali meet as the sports agency approved the trip.
“We are really very thankful, very grateful to the PSC, especially chairman Bachmann because the agency really financed our participation. I hope the PSC continues to support us, especially now that we're going to the world championship,” said Franquelli.
“The next world championship is next year so we still have time, enough time to prepare the national team. We're excited and we hope we can get the support,” added Franquelli, who also credited the support of Philippine Handball Federation president Steve Hontiveros and PHF secretary-general Dr. Jay Adalem.
Meanwhile, the men's beach handball team missed on the opportunity to qualify in the world meet after it finished fifth overall out of 11 participants. The fifth place kept the Filipinos on their current ranking in Asia.
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