Four-year effort brought historic SEA Games silver - De Guzman

Mark Escarlote on May 26, 2020 03:10 PM
Four-year effort brought historic SEAG silver - De Guzman
(Photo: Arvin Lim)

The Philippine men’s volleyball team’s historic silver medal finish in the 30th Southeast Asian Games last December is the culmination of the squad’s four-year effort to bring honor to the country.

Overshadowed by the more popular – and sometimes controversial - women’s team, the Pinoy spikers worked silently since the country’s return in the biennial meet in 2015 after a decade of hiatus.

Team captain John Vic De Guzman said in an interview in the ‘Athletes’ Tribune’ podcast that the previous national team’s mentored by Oliver Almadro and Sammy Acaylar blazed the trail for the success of the current Dante Alinsunurin-coached squad.

“Alam naman natin na kahit magkaiba sila ng coaching ‘yun pa rin ang iisang goal nila – ang magka-medal. Yun nga nakuha namin noong 2019,” said De Guzman, who played in all three national selections.

The Philippines, for the first time since the 2005 SEA Games was held in the country, fielded a men’s team in the regional sporting spectacle in Singapore.

The Marck Espejo-bannered Nationals, who were was composed of then UAAP champion Ateneo de Manila University’s core, won against Malaysia before bowing down to powerhouse Myanmar and Thailand.

Two years later, Almadro was replaced by Acaylar.

De Guzman was the only player from the previous team to return for another tour of duty and was named team captain.

Top hitters Bryan Bagunas and Ranran Abdilla joined the squad, which trained in South Korea. However, the Nationals ended up with the same result:  a lone win over East Timor and defeats at the hands of Vietnam and Indonesia.       

“Ang pinaka na-observe ko before kasi si Coach Sam, ‘yung way niya ng pagtuturo ‘yung mga before, like endurance, sprinting, circuits more on ganoon kami,” said De Guzman, who led College of St. Benilde to its breakthrough NCAA title in 2017. “Which is noong 2017 ‘yun naman ang pinagpapasalamat ko kay coach Sam kasi sobrang lakas ng katawan namin.”

With Alinsunurin on board, the Nationals saw the return of Espejo, Rex Intal and setter Ish Polvorosa while De Guzman, libero Jack Kalingking, Abdilla and Mark Alfafara retained their spots from the previous lineup. Veteran playmaker Jessie Lopez and new faces like Kim Malabunga and setter Owa Retamar also joined the crew.   

“Nu’ng time ng tryout, na-feel ko rin na compared noong 2017, nu’ng 2019 siguro mas complete ang lineup ng men’s volleyball,” said De Guzman. “Lahat ng hinahanap namin noong 2015 at 2017 nakuha namin nitong 2019 kaya mas powerful ang lineup, mas maganda ang defense, mas matatangkad and siguro nakatatak na rin sa puso namin na kailangan naming iangat ang men’s volleyball.”

Heading into the SEA Games, the Filipinos participated in a pocket tournament in Thailand where they finished third and held a training camp in Japan.

“This time kasi (under coach Dante) more on technique and naging key namin para makakuha ng medal sa SEA Games,” De Guzman shared.

“Kung paano ‘yung pinaka best way kung paano mag-block, best way kung paano papalo and defense ‘yun naman ang na-adopt namin kay Coach Dante,” he added. “Yung mga nakalaban namin sa Japan pinag-aralan na namin kung ano ang pinaka-best na paraan para ma-block ang bola, best na paraan para ‘yung connection nyo sa i’sat isa. Yun ang pinag-aralan namin.”

With good preparation and solid lineup, the Nationals surprised Cambodia and Vietnam with straight sets victories. A loss to Indonesia put the host team into a collision course with defending champion Thailand.

The Nationals pulled off a huge upset in the semis when they outlasted the Thais in five sets in a come-from-behind fashion to assure themselves of a first-ever silver medal since 1977 and first podium finish since wining bronze in the 1991 edition.

However, Indonesia’s firepower and experience were too much for the Filipinos to handle in gold medal match.

The Nationals may have failed to win the elusive gold but the squad did achieve its goal of stepping on the podium once again.

De Guzman and the team are now looking forward for another chance for the top podium next year in Vietnam.

 

 

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles

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