MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine men’s volleyball team may have not won a medal in the past two Southeast Asian Games but its program earned an opportunity to continue its development with its first Asian Games stint in 49 years.
The men’s national volleyball squad failed to sustain its momentum from a historic silver medal in the Manila SEA Games four years ago after the program was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic that led to an underwhelming finish in Hanoi, Vietnam last year.
The Filipino Spikers, who started rebuilding under Brazilian coach Sergio Veloso replacing Dante Alinsunurin early this year, had another fifth-place finish in Cambodia last May when they missed core players Marck Espejo, Bryan Bagunas, and Joshua Retamar.
How did the men’s team get the chance to play?
The men’s team was given a chance by the Philippine Olympic Committee to play in the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China — the same opportunity given to the women’s squad in Indonesia five years ago.
“What I like about the ideals of POC president Bambol [Tolentino] is to give a chance to more sports to compete in the Asian Games level. He wants to give an opportunity despite the limited funding,” said Philippine National Volleyball Federation president Tats Suzara in Filipino.
“For me, as long as there is an opportunity to play, let’s participate because it improves our ranking, especially the ranking is important for both indoor and beach volleyball.”
The men’s and women’s beach volleyball teams will also compete in the continental meet but the PNVF will shoulder all of their expenses.
Why is there no women’s volleyball team in the Asian Games?
Ther women’s indoor team will not be participating in this year’s Games.
Suzara explained that the national federation didn’t manage to secure the commitment from the women’s players before the Asian Games’ deadline for the Enty of Names.
The women’s spikers last participated in the Asian Games in 2018 when the defunct Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas Inc. was still the active National Sports Association.
“I’ve been getting a lot of questions why we’re not sending a women’s team. At that time when we were given the deadline, we do not know who the players available are from the PVL and the university. So what happened after the deadline, we didn’t get to submit unlike the men’s team who already had the commitment of the players,” he said.
Who will lead the PH men’s volleyball in Hangzhou?
Things have been falling into place for the men’s program lately as Bagunas and Espejo as well as Kim Malabunga returned to the team to join Filipino-American rising star Steven Rotter and holdover Jau Umandal and Rex Intal.
Bagunas, the reigning MVP and champion from WinStreak club in the Top Volleyball League in Taiwan, will be bannering the team, which arrived in China on Saturday. Espejo, who is preparing for his Korean V-League debut with the Incheon Korean Air Jumbos, will meet the team in Hangzhou.
Ryan Ka, Chumason Njigha, Lloyd Josafat, setters Vince Mangulabnan and Adrian Villados, and libero Vince Lorenzo will also be part of the men’s team’s historic Asian Games return as they are grouped in Pool F, facing SEA Games champion Indonesia on September 19, before battling Afghanistan on the next day and taking on Volleyball Nations League bronze medalist Japan on the 21st.
“I think it’s a good opportunity. It’s been 49 years, it’s time to give a chance to our men’s team, especially as a growing team with the Fil-Ams, and Bryan and Marck,” Suzara said of the men’s team, which competed in the SEA VLeague and AVC Cup. “Although the group itself is tough with Japan, Indonesia and then Afghanistan. What is important is for them to be back after 49 years.”
Who will compete in beach volleyball?
The men’s beach volleyball team will be composed of Ranran Abdilla, James Buytrago, Jude Garcia, and Jaron Requinton, who won the country’s third straight bronze medal in the latest SEA Games in Cambodia.
The women’s beach volleyball squad is bannered by lone holdover Dij Rodriguez with newcomers Gen Eslapor, Grydelle Matibag, and Khylem Harl Progella after Sisi Rondina, Bernadeth Pons, and Jovelyn Gonzaga decided to come back in indoor action.
With three teams competing in the Asiad, the PNVF chief is tempering his expectations of the men’s indoor team and women’s beach volleyball team, while he hopes the men’s beach volleyball team, the lone medalist squad from the federation, will put up a gallant stand.
“I’m not pinning my hopes too high in the Asian Games. The men’s indoor grouping is tough. I’m hoping for our men’s team to have good performance,” Suzara said. “Women’s (team) is very new. with Sisi and Bertnadeth gone. I cannot stop them because that’s their decision. So we will continue to find new people, new players for our national team.”
The beach volleyball teams are competing in the Asian Games for the first time since 2006 when Parley Tupaz and Rhovyl Verayo, who are now coaches, represented the men’s squad and placed 13th out of the 19 nations, while Diane Pascua and Heidi Ilustre played in the women’s division in Doha, Qatar.