The national women’s volleyball team suffered a major blow when one of its most seasoned players, Rhea Dimaculangan, formally stepped down.

Dimaculangan, the former University of Santo Tomas star who has been a regular fixture in various international tournaments, opted to quit to get a breather while focusing her attention on leading Petron to another title in the ongoing Philippine Superliga (PSL) Invitational Conference.

National team head coach Shaq Delos Santos broke the news to Tribune, saying that he respects Dimaculangan’s decision since she barely gets any rest the past few months due to her commitment with both the National Team and the Blaze Spikers.

The previous year was an extremely busy year for Dimaculangan.

After seeing action for Petron in the All-Filipino and Invitational Conferences, she suited up for the national team that had a 17-day training in three Japanese cities.

From there, she campaigned in the AVC Asian Senior Women’s Championship in Laguna and the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur. A couple of days later, she’s back in the court once more as she suited up for Petron that went all the way to challenge F2 Logistics in three grueling games before surrendering the PSL Grand Prix title last December.

After the Christmas break, she was tapped to play a major role in Petron’s march to the Grand Prix crown and in its bid in the ongoing Invitationals.

Then, she was chosen to be part of the national pool that will have another two-week training in Japan before seeing action in the 18th Asian Games in August and the AVC Asian Senior Women’s Championship in September.

Delos Santos, who is also Dimaculangan’s coach at Petron, said he knows where his player is coming from.

“She’s getting burned out,” said Delos Santos, referring to his ward who has been campaigning in the SEA Games and other major international tournaments for the past four to six years.

“She’s been playing competitive since last year so I can imagine the pressure she’s been feeling. It’s okay. We accept her resignation and we wish her well in her future endeavors.”

Tribune tried, but Dimaculangan refused to issue any statement.

But in her resignation letter addressed to Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. (LVPI) president Joey Romasanta dated last June 30, she stressed that she’s stepping down to give other players a chance to display their talent in the international stage.

She also wished the team well and expressed her optimism that it would reach its goal, which is to come up with a good performance in the Asian Games and clinch at least a bronze medal in the SEA Games in Manila next year.

More than that, she stressed that she will make herself available should the LVPI and the national team request for her service in the future.

“But for now, we want to respect the break she needs,” said Delos Santos, who already replace Dimaculangan in the reserve list in the Asian Games.

“It’s really hard to compete for your club and the National Team at a higher level. So I really understand where she’s coming from.”

With Dimaculangan out, Jia Morado and Kim Fajardo will still remain as the Asian Games playmakers while Filipino-Canadian Rebecca Rivera will retain her slot in the pool.

Skipper Aby Marano leads the star-studded squad together with Frances Molina, Cha Cruz-Behag, Dindin Manabat, Majoy Baron, Mika Reyes, Jaja Santiago, Kianna Dy, Kim Fajardo, Alyssa Valdez, Dawn Macandili and Morado.

Other members of the pool are Denden Lazaro, Maika Ortiz, Lourdes Clemente, Myla Pablo, MJ Philips, Mylene Paat, CJ Rosario and Rivera.

The Nationals were drawn in Pool A in the Asian Games together with regional rivals Thailand and Indonesia as well as Japan and Hong Kong.

“I like the outcome of the draw,” said Delos Santos, adding that it’s going to be an uphill battle.

“Our goal coming into the Asian Games is to gain experience for the SEA Games next year. That’s why I’m glad that we’re getting an early face-off with Thailand and Indonesia as well as Japan, which we consider as the ‘role model’ in Asian volleyball.”

“The Asian Games will be tough, but we will work hard to go there prepared.”