PLDT has hired Petro Gazz champion coach Rald Ricafort, hoping he can turn the High Hitters’ fortunes in the next season of the Premier Volleyball League.
The High Speed Hitters management announced the arrival of the youthful mentor in a social media post on Wednesday, 4 January to officially welcome the replacement of George Pascua.
PLDT released Pascua last Monday after just one season.
Ricafort steered the Petro Gazz Angels to a second straight Reinforced Conference title last year in his first and only tournament as head coach of the squad.
“I’m very grateful to Petro Gazz for the four years we spent there. They helped us a lot to be the coach that we are today,” Ricafort said.
“PLDT said they want to have a youth movement beginning with the coach. That is the same direction I want for my career. I took it as the perfect opportunity to have a new environment,” Ricafort added.
He will take over a team that has a lot of potential to contend for the title but has yet to taste a podium finish.
The High Speed Hitters finished seventh in the 2021 Open Conference. It tapped Pascua last year to take the reins from Roger Gorayeb.
Under Pascua’s watch, the rebuilding High Speed Hitters finished fifth in the Open Conference, fourth in the Invitational Conference after losing to sister team Cignal in the battle for third, and sixth in the season-ending Reinforced Conference.
Ricafort, who also handles the University of the Philippines men’s volleyball team, is expected to bring his championship experience, system and winning culture to PLDT.
He will be joined by another former Petro Gazz mentor Arnold Laniog as assistant coach.
Laniog is a champion head coach that guided College of Saint Benilde men’s volleyball team to the NCAA Season 92 crown and the Angels to the 2019 Reinforced Conference title.
“Having Coach Arnold is definitely a big help as I move to this new environment since we’ve been working together all these years. With him around, there won’t be much of an adjustment on the transition,” Ricafort shared.
However, it will be a tall order for the coach to inject his system into the High Speed Hitters just weeks before the PVL opens its 2023 season on 4 February.
PLDT supporters hope to see Ricafort wield the same magic he did for Petro Gazz and maximize the potential of the veteran-laden team led by prized middles Mika Reyes and Del Palomata, Jules Samonte, setter Rhea Dimaculangan and libero Kat Arado.
“We at PLDT are excited to work with a young champion coach in Coach Rald,” said PLDT/SMART Head of Sports Jude Turcuato. “We know he can guide our players to the next level.
“We are always looking to improve and get the best out of our team,” he continued.