Despite the stinging losses and less than desirable score lines, the PHI Under-23 women’s volleyball team will always have the support and admiration of established local stars in Creamline’s Alyssa Valdez, Jia Morado and Michele Gumabao.
The young squad, which played without most of its vaunted hitters and recognizable names because of various reasons ranging from club commitments to injuries, finished the 2019 Thailand Open Sealect Tuna Volleyball Championships empty-handed save for valuable experience and lessons playing in the international scene.
Never mind the bashers, the searing and scarring criticisms and all, they’re volleyball ‘ates’ got their backs.
“Ako, for the girls lang, they don’t have to be down,” said Valdez, who was a part of the PHI U-23 team that finished seventh in the 12-team inaugural Asian U-23 Championship that the country hosted in 2015. “I’m not saying na dapat maging masaya but you keep on fighting, you keep on going.”
Valdez, who has been a part of the national team since her girls squad stint 11 years ago, admired the determination of the PHI U-23 to represent the country even on short notice.
“Kahit anong mangyari we’re just really proud of the girls. Pinatawag sila to represent our country, pumunta sila ipinaglaban nila yung bansa natin,” said Valdez, who is set to make her third Southeast Asian Games tour of duty in November. “Who knows sila ang future generation natin na magre-represent talaga ng bansa natin at makapagdala ng medal.”
Playing with an inexperienced core with a few high school standouts, the Filipinas were easy pickings for their seasoned tormentors.
“It’s part of the process. Kung mababa ang score and matalo, it’s part of the learning experience you get internationally,” added Valdez.
The PHI U-23 team suffered a humiliating 9-25, 12-25, 6-25, whipping at the hands of one of Japan’s best club teams, the Okayama Seagulls – the same team that will host the country’s senior national team during their international training camp.
Looking to save face after their embarrassment, the Filipinas did regain some sense of pride with a better showing albeit it still ended with a 20-25, 12-25, 15-25, loss to 3BB Nakornnont, which fielded a couple of players from the Thai national team.
“Pero 'yung girls we’ve seen them, I’ve seen them. I watched their games also. I see how hard they fight. I’ve seen how they trained also,” said Morado, who was also a former PHI U-23 standout and currently part of the senior squad.
“’Yun nga lang lahat ng players talaga na pinapadala sa ganoon lumalaban talaga,” she added. “They’re not there just for nothing, they’re there for the country, so kudos sa kanila.”
Gumabao, who represented the country in the 2015 Asian Seniors Championship in China, commended the patriotism of the girls despite overwhelming odds.
“Nothing to be ashamed of,” said Gumabao, who also carried the nation’s pride outside of volleyball in the 2018 Miss Globe competition.
Gumabao like Morado and Valdez called on the Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. to come up with a comprehensive and concrete program for the all of the sport’s national teams for future international competitions.
“You reap what you sow. We in Creamline, we reap what we sow. We sow hard work, we reap wins,” Gumabao said. “Same internationally, if you sow years of training and experience, makikita natin ang score.”
Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles