‘Para sa Bayan’: PH volleyball teams buckle up for SEA Games duty

Alyssa Rola
‘Para sa Bayan’: PH volleyball teams buckle up for SEA Games duty

Jerrick Esguerra

Alyssa Valdez says, 'We just need to prepare more, we need to really gel as a team'

MANILA, Philippines- Thousands of viewers who flocked to Biñan City for the 19th Asian Senior Women’s Volleyball Championship witnessed a bunch of sweeps, an emotional 4-set victory against a Southeast Asian Games silver medalist (Vietnam), and a bittersweet 5-set defeat to pull down the curtains on the tourney’s memoir. 


But in those straight game days, the Philippine national women’s volleyball team did its best to stand its ground against Asian giants. Despite having less international experience, the Philippines showed fight, gutsy effort, and that all familiar puso when going up against taller, more seasoned squads. 

And, to wrap it all up, local talents are gradually being recognized on the international stage. Dawn Macandili’s second best libero plum in the tournament is a huge start and deemed a good sign for Philippine volleyball.

(READ: Dawn Macandili named second best libero in Asian Seniors tilt)

When the Philippine staging of the Asian Seniors came to a close, head coach Francis Vicente walked back to the dugout with his head held high, and nothing but an expression of pride for his crew. 

“I’m very proud of the team,” was what Vicente told reporters on the final day of the tournament. 

It’s definitely a start, he would later on share. “Kailangan lang talaga ‘yung consistency sa pag-build ng team.”(We just the need the consistency to build this team)

Malaysia bound

Running on little to no rest, the girls packed their bags to fly to Kuala Lumpur for the 2017 SEA Games. The men’s team plays Vietnam on Monday, August 21 while the women’s team starts on August 24 against Malaysia.

The week-long tilt served as a final buildup heading into the biennial contest, where both men’s and women’s volleyball squads have yet to finish at the podium since 2005. 

It was also of great help that the team provided viewers a sneak peek of what’s about to come when it went up against Southeast Asian powerhouse teams Vietnam and Thailand. 

The Filipina spikers were vocal of how grateful they were for that learning opportunity and experience, one that they’ll surely bring when they do meet again in Malaysia. 

“There were moments when we were there, we though we got it [the win],” shared Alyssa Valdez  after the team’s final classification game against Kazakhstan Thursday. “Pero doon mo makikita kung gaano kabata [kami compared to other teams].”

(But that’s where you’ll see how young we are compared to other teams in Asia.)

Mas kailangan namin paghandaan, kailangan lang namin mag-gel as a team talaga,” she further noted. (We just need to prepare more, we need to really gel as a team.) “We have to see the little things inside the court.” 

Heading into the SEA Games, Vicente spoke of the positives as well as other factors of the game he sees the team could still improve on. 

Meron na tayong speed,” bared Vicente of his team which finished in 8th place. “’Yung ano lang, we need to focus on kung paano tayo magbabasa ng bola, ‘yung floor defense.

(We already have the speed. It’s just that we need to focus on how we can read the play of opponents; also our floor defense.)

Inspiration from setback

While the women’s team fights fatigue and aims to recover quickly, the men’s team also faced a challenge of its own during the preparation for the biggest competition this year. 

Skipper John Vic De Guzman shared to Rappler the highs, setbacks, and everything in between that took place during their training camp abroad- including the injury of top hitter Greg Dolor that ultimately sidelined the latter for the Malaysian Games. 

Dolor, who played for the Far Eastern University Tamaraws in the UAAP, dislocated his left pinky finger and sustained an open wound during a blocking session of the team’s camp in South Korea. Shortly after, the Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas Inc sent out a statement that Dolor would be left out of the lineup to fully recover from the injury.

Photos by Jerrick Esguerra/Rappler

De Guzman revealed that this incident only motivated the team to do better in training, and he hopes that all their sacrifices and hardwork will eventually pay off in the end.

Sobrang lungkot nung nangyari, nakakaiyak talaga nung una,” the men’s captain said of his teammate Dolor, who was replaced by reserve player and fellow Tamaraw Peter John Quiel in the roster.

Pero hindi naman dapat kami magpakita ng kahinaan sa kanya nung mga oras na ‘yun, so ang ginawa namin, nag-training pa kami [nang mabuti] at nag-push na i-alay ang bawat pagod para sa kanya.

(It was really sad, what happened. But at that time, we didn’t have to show any signs of weakness in front of him [Dolor]. What we did was just to perform better in training, to push even harder and offer all our hard work for him.)

Para sa Bayan

While the stint in Korea bared his team’s strengths and weaknesses, the former NCAA MVP De Guzman buckles up for a much bigger challenge as the designated captain in the foreign arena. 

For the then-College of Saint Benilde star, it all starts with focus, commitment, determination, and just the right amount of faith. 

For me, unang-una tutok [ako] sa training, wala na masyadong commitments at focus dapat talaga,” De Guzman told Rappler.

Nagdarasal kami palagi para sa safety ng bawat isa at binubuo ‘yung pamilyang nasimulan namin para magbigay ng karalangan para sa bayan.

(For me, first and foremost I should just focus on training and not entertain a lot of commitments. We’re just praying for everyone’s safety, and we’re continuing to build this family we’ve started so that we could give honor to the country.)

Valdez, on the other hand, echoed De Guzman’s word as she said the women’s team will fight tooth and nail to bring glory to the nation. 

Bawat tao sa loob ng court, isa lang goal niyan. Lalaban at magpapakamatay para sa bola at para sa bayan,” the former Ateneo De Manila University standout noted on Thursday.

(READ: SEA Games 2017: John Vic De Guzman leads men’s volleyball hopefuls)

Tuloy lang ang laban para sa bayan. Hindi kami titigil. At sana suportahan niyo lahat ng Pilipino, lahat ng mga atletang pupunta sa SEA Games na nire-represent ang ating bansa. 

(Everyone inside the court has that one goal. We will do whatever it takes to fight for the ball and for the country. The fight goes on for the country, we won’t stop. I hope you support all Filipinos, all the athletes who will be competing in the SEA Games to represent the country.)

“Para sa Bayan!” the girls shouted in unison, before swiftly heading back to the dugout at the Alonte Sports Arena.

In a different time and place, the men’s and women’s volleyball teams shared that one simple battle cry: para sa bayan. And when the going gets tough once they step foot into the battlefield, they’ll have that one thought they can always come back to- that they have an entire nation, proudly rooting and cheering for them from all parts of the globe. 

And that should be enough, podium finish or not. -Rappler.com

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