Asian Volleyball

End-of-roster Alas addition Panique sparks underdog hope as Kazakhstan rolls to AVC final

JR Isaga

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End-of-roster Alas addition Panique sparks underdog hope as Kazakhstan rolls to AVC final

MAGIC BUNOT. Alas Pilipinas coach Jorge Souza de Brito embraces spiker Arah Panique in the 2024 AVC Challenge Cup

PVL Images/ Joaqui Flores

The 19-year-old prospect Arah Panique, a final addition to the hastily formed Alas Pilipinas, delivers for the host nation in the semifinal against Kazakhstan, when no one else could amid a cold start

MANILA, Philippines – Mere days before the 2024 AVC Challenge Cup rolled around, the hastily assembled Alas Pilipinas tapped 19-year-old prospect Arah Panique as the very last selection of the 14-woman team, replacing National University teammate Alyssa Solomon as the sole natural opposite hitter.

Four matches into the tournament, as the host nation rolled to an unexpected elimination-round sweep to reach the knockout semifinal, the 5-foot-11 winger was seldomly deployed, often left to slim pickings at the end of sets and matches when the results were all but decided.

That changed, however, on Tuesday, May 28, as veteran Kazakhstan’s 21-10 first-set schooling of Alas sent head coach Jorge Souza de Brito scrambling for other options.

Keeping true to the “stay ready” mantra of role players, Panique, out of nowhere, near-singlehandedly resurrected the hosts from the dead, powering down 6 points in a 12-2 blitz to get within striking distance, before Kazakhstan eventually limped ahead with a 25-23 escape.

Although the world No. 30 protagonists eventually sealed Alas’ fate with a 25-23, 25-21, 25-14 sweep, somehow the reality of the team’s first loss all seemed second fiddle to the magic that transpired at the very end of their bench, and Panique was nothing but grateful for the experience.

“I just showed what I can do and how I trusted myself, given what my ates always advise us, especially ate Jia [de Guzman],” the newly crowned UAAP champion said in Filipino after a 14-point finish, the only double-digit scoreline from the losing side.

“She and the coaches really gave me trust to keep me on the floor and just always stay ready.”

De Brito, who signed off on the Panique call-up following Casiey Dongallo’s injury and Solomon’s sit-out, was not the least bit surprised that Alas’ youngest player passed her first extended test with flying colors.

“It was not a surprise for me. The guys who were watching the games in the UAAP know that she has the potential. She’s not under pressure anymore to play under any kind of competition. She’s really comfortable,” said the Brazilian mentor in his first game since being called to stay as coach by the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF).

“She’s young, she makes some mistakes but it happens only when the players go inside. So, I’m really proud of her. Not even showing any hesitation to do any actions inside.”

With Alas now relegated to the bronze-medal match against familiar foe Australia to keep its breakthrough podium dreams alive, Panique is keen to feed off this unexpected momentum for her country’s sake.

“My confidence is now at an all-time high… I know I have to give my best whenever I’m called again, and of course, I have to repay everyone’s trust in me to show what I can really do.” –

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