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20/02/2014 17:00
Getting to know: Philippe Tuitoga
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Paris, France, February 20, 2014.  During the summer of his 18th birthday when Philip Tuitoga accompanied a friend playing volleyball, he probably did not imagine that a few seasons later he would play in European Cups semifinals in the same team with Spanish international setter Guillermo Hernan or one of the stellar player of the Serbian national team, Marko Ivovic.  But it is what Philippe Tuitoga is about to do within a few days as France’s PARIS Volley is going to face Romania’s Tomis CONSTANTA in the 2014 CEV Volleyball Cup - Men semifinals.

From departmental level to French Ligue A in three seasons

For the PARIS Volley middle blocker all has gone through in a lightning speed. After he had not been practicing any sport for two years after he tried handball, Philippe Tuitoga was attracted to volleyball upon his summer experience and signed his first volleyball license at age of 18 in Ivry sur Seine, his city, located near Paris.  In his first season, he alternated between the junior and the senior amateur level teams of his club.

Quickly spotted for his athleticism, he joined the club of Charenton and played in the fifth national level for two seasons.  This was already quite extraordinary for someone who had discovered the sport only three years ago.  PARIS Volley scouts realized that this was a high-potential player and did not hesitate to sign with the then 21-year-old on his first contract.  This first season in a professional structure enabled Philippe to discover the requirements of high-level volleyball and continue his improvement.

Beach or indoor?

On top of all this, Pipo, as his friends call him, also made spectacular progress on the sand.  Last summer, he became beach volleyball champion of France in partnership with his PARIS Volley teammate Marc Vautier defending the colors of Paris Diderot University where Tuitoga is a student in English. He was offered to start training with the French national beach volleyball team with the prospect to possibly represent the country at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.  But to the delight of PARIS Volley coach Dorian Rougeyron, Philippe chose to sign a professional contract with the Parisian club.

Confirming his highest level this season

This season Philippe Tuitoga is an integral part of the rotation of the three PARIS middle blockers, along with Ardo Kreek and Denis van der Veen.  Initially he was used as a substitute player during the matches, primarily for his defensive qualities and exceptional blocking instinct.  But he quickly gained confidence alongside experienced Spanish setter Guillermo Hernan, who did not hesitate to launch quick attacks with Pipo through the middle. So now Philippe has grown to be a formidable alternative in offense.  His performance against CHAUMONT in the French Cup semifinals last Tuesday (19 points) is a good illustration of the level the PARIS number 11 has now reached.

One of the strengths of Philippe Tuitoga, in addition to his technical qualities, are his mental qualities. He has a quiet temperament, which permits him to keep calm even in the most difficult situations, such as PARIS’s epic away 3:2 win over Montenegro’s Budvanska Rivijera BUDVA in a 2014 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League match.

To win the 2014 CEV Volleyball Cup is clearly one of the major objectives for the Parisian prodigy, especially because "it is the only European trophy not yet conquered by the club."  Pipo will have the opportunity to make his direct contribution to achieving this objective next Tuesday when PARIS Volley entertains Tomis in the first semifinal leg of the competition.

But it may well be that the CEV Volleyball Cup is not the only international competition for Philippe Tuitoga this year.  Based on his performance, his name is in the spotlight as a possible recruit for France’s national team.  With the 2014 FIVB World League in sight, if this happens, Pipo might have to give up beach volleyball tournaments this summer.

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