PETALING JAYA: The national women’s volleyball team have received a double boost in their preparations for the Singapore SEA Games in June.
Firstly, the relatively young squad with an average age of 23 will be strengthened by the presence of three senior players - Beh Shun Thing, Luk Teck Hua and Luk Teck Eng.
The three spikers are seasoned campaigners, with 30-year-old Shun Thing and 33-year-old Teck Hua having earned a bronze in beach volleyball at the 2009 SEA Games in Laos, and fourth at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou.
“Shun Thing and Teck Hua have stopped playing beach volleyball since the 2011 SEA Games and have committed themselves to training since last year,” said national coach Lim Poh Hong.
Secondly, the Malaysian women have been invited to compete in a high-level invitational tournament – the Binh Dien Cup in Quang Tri, Vietnam, from March 21-29.
The women’s team were out of their depth at the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar and failed to pick up a single win.
The tournament offers US$43,200 (RM159,000) in prize money and features four professional Vietnamese teams as well as Japan, North Korea, Kazakhstan and China.
Poh Hong believes that the Vietnam tournament will be a good test for the women’s squad, who lacked international exposure.
Only 12 of the 19 players selected for centralised training will head to Vietnam. The final squad for Singapore will only be decided based on their performance in Vietnam.
“We are targeting the semi-finals of the SEA Games, at the very least. Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam are still the strongest teams in this region,” said Poh Hong.