JAO Umandal shone the brightest for the Philippine men’s volleyball team at the Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championship and he expects to be even better because of the experience.
Jao Umandal: rising star
National coach Dante Alinsunurin was pleasantly surprised to find a new star in the 22-year-old spiker, who stepped up in the absence of Japan V.League imports Marck Espejo and Bryan Bagunas.
Umandal averaged 19.4 points in five matches, capping that performance with his tournament-best 28 points in a 25-14, 22-25, 25-18, 21-25, 15-11 victory over Sri Lanka’s CEB Sports Club on Wednesday - the team's only win.
Umandal said the team still fought hard against the top clubs of the continent despite coming off a two-year layoff and these losses only make them better.
“Kakaunti yung oras namin para mag handa after SEA Games pero nakita namin na buo kami,” Umandal said. “Lahat ng nangyari may purpose, natalo man po kami alam namin na panalo kami sa mga natutunan namin na mababaon namin sa mga susunod naming liga.”
Team work and unity of Rebisco Philippines fueled the 6-foot-2 spiker’s breakthrough performance in the international scene.
“Lahat kami leader, lahat kami pantay-pantay, simula sa coaches hanggang sa pinakabatang player,” he said. “Lagi lang namin iniisip na maglalaro kami for the team at hindi para sa sarili namin. Tiwala kami sa isa’t isa at yun ang importante.”
Even Espejo and Bagunas, who are in Japan, were able to show their full support to the team and it inspired the University of Santo Tomas standout to fill in their big shoes.
“Wala man po si Marck at Bryan alam namin at ramdam namin na kahit nasaan sila nakasuporta pa din po sila sa amin at sa team,” he said. “Kung ano po ang maitutulong ko, ibibigay ko pero lagi kami nagtitiwala po sa coaches dahil sila ang mas may alam.”
Behind his impressive Asian stint, Umandal gave credit to his coaches for keeping him in shape since the Covid-19 pandemic wiped out the UAAP last year after four playdates.
“Medyo mahirap dahil maraming nangyare na di inaasahan pero lagi nga sinasabi ng coaches namin na magtiwala lang, And salamat sa pagtitiwala na binigay nila,” he said.
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