O, ‘di ba? Kabog na!”
Those were the first words that came out of star payer Alyssa Valdez's mouth upon being told that the Philippines will be bracketed with powerhouse Vietnam and Indonesia in Group B of the volleyball competitions of the 28th Southeast Asian Games in Singapore.
Vietnam and Indonesia placed second and third, respectively, behind regional giant Thailand in the 2013 edition of the biennial meet in Myanmar. Malaysia completes the four-team bracket.
Valdez, who will also be the country’s flag bearer in the June 5 opening ceremonies, said it’s going to be a heavy task but at the same time a learning experience for the young Philippine team.
“O ‘di ba nga, dalawa ‘yung ka-bracket namin (na malakas), kabog na!” said the 21-year-old pride of San Juan, Batangas with a big laugh when Spin.ph caught up with her after the team’s practice at the Blue Eagle gym in Ateneo.
But that doesn't mean the Philippine team is daunted, Valdez continued.
“But then, sabi ko nga, 'pag binigyan mo ng malalakas na kalaban ang mga Pilipino, tatawa lang din naman tayo tsaka lalaban tayo,” she said. “Hindi naman ‘yung susuko lang din talaga.”
Valdez felt the team is bound to be tested in the SEA Games following the Filipina volleybelles’ stint in the Asian Under-23 Women’s Championship that also saw them being grouped with strong teams such as Iran and Kazakhstan.
“Sabi ko nga noong Under-23 pa ito eh,” she said. “Na-bracket kami sa Iran at Kazakhstan.”
Then again she added, “I think naman it’s really good for the team, kasi kami we’d rather play 'yung talagang competitive na teams kasi sobrang dami naming matututunan.
“Matalo man kami, at least we learned a lot of things.”
The hard-hitting Ateneo spiker also said the country’s stint in the Asian Under-23 wars exposed the team to a high level of competition that should augur well in its first SEA Games campaign in a decade.
Aside from Valdez, Jaja Santiago, Jia Morado and Gretcel Soltones are the other remnants of the Under-23 team who will be beefing up the squad bound for the SEA Games in Singapore.
“Ayun napasok kami sa (next round ng Asian Under-23 kalaban) Japan, China, Chinese Taipei. We’re really happy kasi ayun, madami kaming natutunan din talaga and it’s really good for the team,” she said.
“A young team to really be exposed sa ganoon kalakas na mga international teams ay maganda talaga,” Valdez added.