Don’t look now, but Philippine Volleyball is showing amazing upgrades right in the middle of the ongoing SEA Games jousts. In a thrilling, come-from-behind shocker meant only for the movies, our men’s team strung up the biggest upset ever by bumping off the crown favorites and 4-time defending champions, Thailand, 17-25, 25-20, 23-25, 27-25, 17-15. Today, it’s on to the Finals against erstwhile tormentor, Indonesia, and everyone is invited to cheer for our boys!!!
Against the grizzled Thais, our men’s team just threw all caution to the wind and let their talents take over. Gone were the tentative movements, the unforced errors that have long been the bane of a team that has not had the chance to compete internationally for quite some time. This time, the movements were fluid, confidence was sky-high, the flair and the no-fear attitude was right there for all to see.
Today, the men’s team, led by new poster boys Bryan Bagunas and Mark Espejo, are gunning for the gold against a dangerous Indonesian side at the PhilSports Arena. And with the team brimming with confidence, I have no doubt that the team – improving by leaps and bounds by the day – will come out of this duel with the gold medal around their necks.
And the women’s team led by Alyssa Valdez and Aby Marano are not far behind either. They may have lost a heartbreaker to the Indonesians for the bronze medal, but their hard-fought match against eventual champions, Thailand, showcased the potential of the team. In the crucial 5-set heartbreaker loss against Indonesia, the team played without top hitter, Alyssa Valdez, who was indisposed. Even before the tournament opened, top Fil-Am prospect, Kalei Mau, was not able to complete her eligibility documents in time, losing the opportunity and privilege to join the team. Just imagine if these 2 deadly gunslingers were around for the match.
That said, it is clear that given the full support for the team this time around, it is just a matter of time before the women’s team is back on track as legitimate contenders for the regional volleyball crown. It will be recalled that for a while, then POC prexy Peping Cojuangco had been denying these 2 teams a chance to compete in the international arenas. That changed when he formed a new, controversial organization called the Liga ng Volleyball sa Pilipinas Inc (LVPI), which he used to bump off the legitimate National Sports Association, the Philippine Volleyball Federation (PVF). Suddenly, all constraints were lifted. Our hermits in Philippine Volleyball were now given the opportunity to travel, compete, and explore the volleyball world beyond our shores. (Please read: The Rape of Philippine Volleyball.)
With Peping and his sports mafia slowly being pushed out of the picture, there is now a better chance for redemption for Philippine Volleyball. (Please read: Unmasking the Philippine Sports Mafia.) LVPI is still around, but given the fact that the PVF still continues to be recognized and regarded in high esteem by the international volleyball community – thanks to some local volleyball activists who pursued the campaign with the world volleyball body, the FIVB – chances for a just resolution to the case of Philippine Volleyball looks brighter. And with that, our hopes and dreams for a united, non-politicized, no-frills-no-mafia Philippine Volleyball can prosper. With the SEA Games almost done, we hope that the new leadership in the POC will finally address this big anomaly in Philippine Volleyball.
In the meantime, let’s all go to the PhilSports Arena. Let’s cheer ourselves hoarse for the Team!!!
Cover photo courtesy of Rappler.com. Other photos courtesy of ABS-CBN Sports, Sports Inquirer.net, PhilStar, MB Sports, Daily Tribune, YouTube, Asian Volleyball, eDayFM and BusinessWorld. For a closer look, just click on the pics.