Pinoy spikers meet KYK
Mark Escarlote on Jul 23, 2017 08:55 PM
The Philippine national men's volleyball team with Korean ace player Kim Yeon Koung. (Photo courtesy of PHI national team assistant coach Macky Carino)
SUWON CITY, South Korea --- Filipino spiker Mark Alfafara was like a kid jumping up and down as he went out of the athletes’ gate of the Suwon Indoor Stadium to join his teammates who were already waiting outside to board their bus.
Outside, a large group of screaming fans, held back by a barrier and a few security personnel, were as excited to see Korea’s most popular volleyball player. Nobody cared about the light drizzle.
The former University of Sto. Tomas hitter Alfafara approached team captain John Vic De Guzman, who was with Bonjomar Castel, Jack Kalingking and Greg Dolor, and showed them his phone.
“Mukhang tinalo ko kayong lahat ah!” he bragged, gliding his fingers on his phone and tapping his photo gallery. "Tingnan nyo naman kung gaano kalapit yan."
“Iba ka!” said De Guzman.
“Galing dumiskarte ni Buybuy,” exclaimed one calling the Cignal outside hitter, a dead ringer for Alaska’s Calvin Abueva, by his nickname.
He along with the rest of the Nationals including head coach Sammy Acaylar, his assistants Macky Carino, Alvin Dumalao, Hertito Monzon, Fritz Santos and Eddieson Orcullo, therapist Randel Lapuz and team manager Naela Orozco were lucky enough to meet and pose for a photo with Korean volleyball star Kim Yeon Koung.
Alfafara was extra lucky.
“Starstruck pa nga ako hanggang ngayon eh. May kilig pa nga,” said Alfafara, who was able to sneak a selfie with the Korean national team skipper also known by her initials KYK after the group photo op with the Pinoy squad.
Herschel Ramos also got a chance to take a selfie with the Korean volleybelle.
Day 1 of the national men’s volleyball team training camp turned out to a memorable one for the players indeed.
After a light training on a rain-soaked Sunday morning in Sungkyunkwan University here, the Pinoy spikers were given a once in a lifetime chance to witness high-level women’s volleyball action with the staging of the Korean leg of the 2017 FIVB World Grand Prix.
It was a special treat for the Nationals, sent here by Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. to train for the 29th Southeast Asian Games on August 19 to 31, before their tough grind in the following days which include 10 tune-up games against club team Hwasung City, the Korean national U-19 team, Korean Universiade national squad and SKK University squad.
The team was obviously excited as they were led to their seats, clicking away with their camera phones – which were returned to them after their training session – as they walked past European powerhouse Poland and the pride of South Korea warming up minutes before their Pool H2 preliminary round match.
When the duel began, the energy and the excitement of the fans filled the arena as they rally behind their beloved squad. All while showing respect to the Polish team.
“Grabe ang lalaki ng mga players nila pero ang bibilis. Halos di na tumatalon sa block eh,” Castel commented during the early part of the game when Poland behind their towering middles seemed to keep the Korean hitters in check.
But assistant coach Carino, who was seated beside setters Geuel Asia and Relan Taneo, saw the coverage of the Koreans whenever their attackers’ got their spikes blocked.
“Naba-block pero tingnan mo nakaka-recover pa rin sila at di naman napapatay ng Poland ang bola kapag nag-block sila,” he said.
The early seesaw battle proved to be just a short stretch for playmaker Yeum Hye Seon to adjust to the defense of Poland.
Seon distributed the ball well to confuse the Polish blockers as Yang Hyo Jin, Heejin Kim and Kim Su Ji found their rhythm to help KYK on offense while top libero Kim Hae Ran took care of their floor coverage.
With balance scoring and extra motivation from the loud cheer of the crowd, the Koreans took the win in straight sets, 25-23, 25-20, 25-22, behind the 17 points of KYK.
Jin had 11 while Heekjin and Su Ji scored 10 and nine markers, respectively.
Berenika Tonsia finished with 15 for Poland.
KYK after the match was gracious enough to give the PHI team, which during the first technical timeout of the opening set were introduced by the Grand Prix emcee to the crowd and where given a round of applause, a chance for a photo op.
The Nationals went back to SKK University dorm with smiles on their face knowing they were able to meet a world volleyball star.
Now it’s time for them to get down to business.
Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles