ON the first row a few feet from the sidelines, August Santamaria sat and watched the matches intently, unafraid of crisply-hit balls that could come his way.
The longtime University of Santo Tomas coach was a fixture at the Asian Under-23 Women’s Volleyball Championship games, no matter his advanced age or the effects of a stroke he suffered seven years ago.
The 67-year-old Santamaria, in fact, traveled all the way from Batangas, and back, several times during the week to watch the matches at the Philsports Arena in Pasig.
Although his speech has been impaired by a stroke in 2008, it was obvious from his tone and his face how he appreciated the quality of play dished out by the national team and other top squads of the continent.
Inside the stadium, Santamaria was a can’t-miss figure, greeted by former players and coaches from other countries. He said a member of the Korean coaching staff was glad to see him after a long, long time.
In a brief chat with Spin.ph, Santamaria said he was impressed with the play of Alyssa Valdez, the Ateneo star and a former standout of University of Santo Tomas. When asked if Valdez can do well in future international competition, Santamaria said yes.
Santamaria said he is also impressed with Liu Yanhan, China’s top player who competed for her country in the Asian Under-23 Women’s Volleyball Championship.