MANILA, Philippines — New Petro Gazz coach Koji Tsuzurabara may have shown his winning pedigree in the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF) Champions League but he stressed that he has still a lot to learn heading to the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) All-Filipino Conference, which opens on February 20.
Tsuzurabara steered Petro Gazz to its first crown in two years after the Angels swept the Cignal HD Spikers, 25-19, 27-25, 25-22, to rule the Champions League on Saturday evening at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The Japanese tactician, who arrived in late January, relished his opportunity to coach in the Philippines but he emphasized that he still needs to familiarize himself with the PVL style as Petro Gazz eyes an elusive All-Filipino crown.
“Philippine people are fun. I must make adjustments for the Philippine players because there’s a difference between Japan’s or China’s play with Philippine’s play. So I must understand more about Philippine volleyball,” said Tsuzurabara after ruling the week-long tournament.
“Having coached in Japan, there is a difference in the game or style [here in the Philippines]. So, I’m also learning and I’m always thinking to make a [great] game plan,” he added.
The 59-year-old coach, who worked in several countries including Vietnam, Japan, New Zealand, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia, credited his players, especially Filipino-American sensation Brooke Van Sickle, for understanding his system despite the short preparation.
“She [Brooke] is the best at understanding many versions of Philippine volleyball style. Everyone helped out with her adjustment,” said the Japanese mentor.
Jonah Sabete, who formed a potent combo with Van Sickle, also said that the former US NCAA Division I spiker’s talent has been motivating the Angels to play better.
“She is so amazing. Her strength and energy lift the team inside the court. She’s carrying us,” said Sabete in Filipino after emerging as the Best Outside Spiker with her MVP teammate.
Sabete said their transition under Tsuzurabara has been smooth and making things easier for them.
“I didn’t expect that I would be performing well this tournament because coach told me not to expect too much but focus one game at a time and just play my game,” Sabete said. “We just trusted his ideas and system. We worked and committed to all the things that he wants us to do.”
“We’re just happy because we reached this level. Hopefully, we can sustain it,” she added.
Although they beat two PVL contenders in the tournament, Tsuzurabara stressed that PVL is “very difficult” so they have to stay motivated and work on their game.