Despite the long layoff, the Philippine men’s volleyball team hopes to prove itself once again on the international stage.
Representing the country as Rebisco in the 2021 Asian Club Volleyball Championships, the team that copped a historic silver in the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games will be tested against its continental opponents.
Nonetheless, team captain John Vic de Guzman said the team aims to overcome all odds in Thailand.
“We came here for exposure and experience. Of course we want to win, but our opponents are no pushovers,” De Guzman said. “But we need to compete against them to get better.”
Rebisco, bunched in Pool B, needs to finish in the top two of its pool to reach the semifinals. The winner of the tournament will clinch a berth in the FIVB World Club Volleyball Championships in Turkey from December 15 to 19.
But the celebrated team will be missing star spikers Marck Espejo and Bryan Bagunas, who are competing in the Japan V. League.
Despite not having its main source of firepower, Rebisco will rely on the core of Rex Intal, Mark Alfafara, Ricky Marcos, Ish Polvorosa, Jessie Lopez, Kim Malabunga, Francis Saura, Josh Retamar, and Jao Umandal.
Ysay Marasigan, who played in the 2015 SEA Games, returns to represent the country, while Nico Almendras, Manuel Sumanguid, and JP Bugaoan will debut for the senior squad.
Rebisco will kick off its campaign against Sirjan Foulad, which won the Iranian Super League championship last April, on Friday, October 8 at 11 am, Manila time.
De Guzman said the team is already motivated to succeed and learn from their rare exposure to the Asian tournament.
“Something that makes us more inspired to work hard as a team is we are competing for flag and country,” said the former College of Saint Benilde star. “We have so much to learn if we have to achieve the Asian level of competition.”
Rebisco will next face Uzbekistan’s AGMK at 11 am on Saturday, followed by a 7:30 pm Sunday clash with Qatar’s Al-Arabi Sports Club.
The Filipinos will wrap up their Pool B preliminary round stint against home club Diamond Food at 4:30 pm on Monday.