Power Pinoys: Happy with progress, thirsting for competitiveness

Levi Verora
Power Pinoys: Happy with progress, thirsting for competitiveness
Despite being outmanned by foreign teams, the Power Pinoys men's volleyball team has much to be optimistic about

MANILA, Philippines – When Vietnam withdrew their bid to host the annual club volleyball championships, the Philippines immediately grabbed the rare opportunity to bring it to Manila. Groups and sponsors quickly organized tryouts for spikers who would represent the Southeast-Asian region for the milestone event.

A few months after, the Power Pinoys looked frustrated and finished in one of their final games at the 2014 Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championship here, yielding another match in embarrassing style against Al Gas Janoob of Iraq on Tuesday.

You win some, you lose some.

But it took them only a matter of time to win valuable lessons from exposure in international competition.

Participating for the first time in a long hiatus, the Philippine men’s volleyball squad got a taste of just how relentless teams are at the 9-day tournament; yet less than 24 hours after their 5th-8th classification game performance against Iraq, the already-ran Philippines about-faced into a resilient, determined, and competitive squad.

The Power Pinoys played inspired, armed with the killer instinct in perhaps the most competitive showing they’ve accomplished to take down Al Zahra of Lebanon in a intense 5-setter and bag the 7th place.

You learn some.

And head coach Francis Vicente is quick to acknowledge some sense of achievement for the nationals who quickly learned their lessons.

“It’s the first time we played here so there is some contentment. My analysis is that people only wanted to see us compete. Since we’re already in the Top 8, it is like beating half of the field already,” he said after their match against Al Gas-Janoob Iraq.

He knew the PLDT Home TVolution-backed group cannot just stop at that level, and they delivered the day after.

“It is (win over Lebanon) beyond expectation so I am very proud. They played splendid defense and blocking. We had less errors on service. They spiked the ball with intelligence.”

The nationals played with a better mood and flashed confidence all throughout, showing how rapid progress can be in less than 24 hours.

Up and down

The road to becoming successful on the international stage is definitely rough, and that is exactly what the Philippines experienced throughout the tournament.

Although there were noticeable lapses in their joust against the Iraqis, Vicente believes that the nationals played better during that time compared to their elimination round meeting against the same team last week.

The taller West-Asian squad were pushed to the hilt; the home crew even led at times before running out of steam, especially on the defensive end – one aspect of their game Vicente wants to improve on.

“I told them that we will win games on defense. I don’t want our height disadvantage to be a reason for our losses,” he told members of the press.

“This game is much better because we were able to fight. But as I have said, we still lack the attitude of pushing ourselves to the limit. In high-level competition, you can’t take a break. You have to go all out,” he quipped of the Power Pinoys’ lack of winning attitude.

Having been together for just one and half months, more-experienced international opposition made easy work of the Power Pinoys.

Particularly against a superpower in Al Rayyan of Qatar on Monday, the Power Pinoys even took a 13-12 edge in the third set, pulling their acts together in front of a good-sized crowd.

There were sporadic smiles and positive cheers from the audience, all hoping the Power Pinoys could deliver. But silence ensued after every final whistle.

Vicente says these in-game miscues are a result of the minimal time they had for training.

“I tell them to always smile and be happy. When the opponents score, we get too tense. Also, we lacked applying what we do in practice,” said Vicente.

But the team did not stop learning and striving hard for the best.

And against Lebanon, the Power Pinoys displayed that adjustment convincingly, fighting with solid floor coverage, scored more block points, and capitalized on every opportunity they could get. The result: a tournament-ending win that placed them in 7th overall.

Imports: bright future coming

The Power Pinoys’ reinforcements, Cedric Legrand and William Lewis, already rested from the sidelines as an aftermath of their duel against Gas Al-Janoob.

Legrand listened to music with his crimson-red Beats headphones and has already talked to his handlers about a planned trip to Boracay. The other import, Lewis, sat a row behind, observing the Qatar-Kazakhstan tiff from a distance while wresting his cup of king-sized coffee.

But when asked about progress, the two Australians showed enthusiasm while answering, as they were excited for a bright future.

Legrand thinks the current roster is young and inexperienced, although they are getting accustomed to what it takes to be in a higher level.

“The future is looking bright, that’s for sure. It’s only the first year but they’ve played in a big competition where there are many national players and getting exposed like this is amazing,” said Legrand, the 2008 Victorian Premier League MVP.

“We are improving every game. Sometimes it’s just disheartening to play your heart out and get beaten by really bigger guys. This is a really high level of volleyball. It is a new experience for us,” Lewis told Rappler.

“It’s massive because we only had a month and a half of solid training. We are pushing teams even if we are losing. For the future, volleyball in the Philippines can really be massive.”

Both were privileged and honored to don the Red, White, and Blue for just a short time and in front of a volleyball-loving region. They think the Philippines is on the right track, although a lot of effort must be exerted in order to excel further.

“Experience wise, it’s a long way to go. We have to be professionals. I think it is one thing missing. We have to be mentally prepared,” added Legrand.

Both have enjoyed their respective stays in the country and shall impart key ideas to the team as well before departing soon. Lewis himself admitted being closer again to the sport he plays, and he just paid it off with good showings every single day.

“It has rekindled all my love for the sport. The fans are supporting us and it has been amazing. The people here are crazy. Volleyball is way popular here. The support has not gone unnoticed,” said Lewis, appreciating the motivation given by the local fan base.

Thirsting for more

Other participants have enjoyed tremendous support financially, and are enrolled in an organized training system all year long, giving them a superior edge come competition time.

Vicente wishes the Philippines could also get the right amount of exposure to further hone their competitiveness and be stronger in the years to come.

“It’s a matter of practicing the right path. We should go out more and learn other ways of playing volleyball with other countries. We need more exposure. If we don’t have that much exposure, we’ll stay in our circle,” said Vicente, who is eyeing players who are disciplined enough.

“I want players who may not be skilled at first, but as long as they want to learn and have that passion, they will eventually develop their games,”

The Philippines cannot have it all for now. But having a men’s national volleyball team for the first time in years is definitely something to talk about.

Their morale-boosting win against Lebanon is an even better development, and Vicente is keen on developing the nationals even further with a quest to take them to the next level. – Rappler.com

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.