Coach Emil Lontoc still keeps winning and winning

ABS-CBN Sports on Sep 08, 2017 01:52 PM
Coach Emil Lontoc still keeps winning and winning
Coach Emil Lontoc (exteme left) with his coaching staff – assistant coach Benjamine Mape and trainer Cromwell Garcia.

At 67, coach Emiliano Lontoc, one of the strategist behind the Philippines’ last gold medal run in the Southeast Asian Games, has no plans of retiring yet.

After 33 years of mentoring the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers and guiding them to a string of UAAP titles capped by a ‘four-peat’ (four consecutive crowns), coach Emil, salt-and-pepper hair closely cropped, kept his post with the Lady Pirates of the Lyceum of the Philippine University and took on a new one as head coach of the Far Eastern University beach volleyball women’s team.

Just recently he helmed the Lady Tamaraws in their domination of the Beach Volleyball Republic national championship in Legaspi in the Bicol region to complete a double for the Morayta-based school, whose men also stopped the wondrous tour-long reign of the Visayan bets.

On Sept. 26-30 the Cavite pride from Bacoor will leave for an international beach volleyball championships in Singapore as head coach of the national men’s and women’s squads.

Not many knew that it was he who transformed from scratch the durable Tina Salak into an incredible setter. Much less knew that it was he as well who discovered and recruited the amazing Cherry Rondina.

And those who know Philippine volleyball by heart still feel a surge of nationalistic pride whenever they catch sight of coach Emil, he who led the national volleybelles to their last gold medal in the SEA Games back in 1993 in Singapore as deputy of Russian mentor Stanislav Lyugaylo.

Recalling that golden stint in the regional biennial games, Lontoc says that before he accepted the national coaching job, he had insisted first on a training camp for the team in Japan.

“At first we could not even beat the Japanese high school teams,” he says, his memory as clear as the bright day outside the Filoil Flying V Centre on the day the Lady Pirates debuted in the Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference. “But as the month-long camp progressed under Japanese trainers and coaches, we started beating some local club teams or giving them a close fight.”

Coach Emil says he imprinted the Japanese volleyball training program step by step and continued it when the team returned to the country.

The rest is history.

Lontoc used to brag about the thick gold bracelet he was always wearing then after that memorable campaign in the SEAG. The bracelet, he would tell his audience, was a gift from sports patron and then national volleyball official Tony Boy Liao, now commissioner of the PVL.

He has since proceeded to use the same training system on all the teams that have passed through his hands.

When he came in at UST, the men’s squad, he says, was at the bottom of the UAAP standings. “The next years my boys were already strong contenders. Then we began winning titles so many I lost count of them.”

He remembers though that his charges went into 14 finals against the FEU Tamaraws.

Coach Emil was discovered playing ‘mais-mais’ (old-rule volleyball played with bets) in the sandlot of a fishing village in Bacoor.

Jerrili Dimaranan’s dad, Mang Gerry, remembers playing that kind of volleyball with Lontoc once upon a time.

Lontoc made it to the national Youth team before he suffered a knee injury that prevented him from reaching his full potential.

He may not have made it to the national  senior team, but the architect of the nation’s gold-medal finish in the SEA Games has long been assured of his place in the history of Philippine -- and SEA Games --  volleyball.      

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