TOKYO - Marck Espejo insisted that the best is yet to come for the Philippine men's volleyball team as there are still a lot of things to improve in its remaining five tune-up matches of its Japan training camp.
After beating Chiba Zelba, 27-29, 25-21, 23-25, 25-21, 25-20, on Sunday for its first win out of four tune-up matches, Espejo and the Filipino spikers hardly celebrated as they all know that they have to continue working harder for the remainder of their 16-day build-up for the 30th Southeast Asian Games.
"Masaya kasi first win natin pero hindi pa naman dito natatapos kasi yung importante naman kahit manalo o matalo basta natututo ka every set, every game," said the five-time UAAP MVP. "Nakakaadjust na kami dito sa sistema sa Japan pero yung point dito is dapat mabilis ka magadjust kasi hindi naman ito yung makakalaban mo sa SEA Games, ibang sistema rin yung teams doon."
Besides all the lessons that they have been absorbing in each game, Espejo is glad that the Filipino spikers have been impressing Japanese fans -- like their spontaneous volleyball clinic with kids last Wednesday -- and after their win over Chiba, the Japanese crowd clapped their hands and even took pictures with the visiting Pinoy players.
"Hindi lang kami natutuwa sa laro namin pati ibang tao natutuwa na rin sa amin kahit siguro sila napapansin din nila kung ano yung naiimprove sa amin and ang saya sa feeling na may mga Japanese fans na rin dito na mahal ang volleyball," said the former import of Oita Miyoshi in Japan V Premier League.
From the first day when they lost in three sets to Saitama Azalea, settling for four-set draw with Tsukuba United and salvaging one of their five-set duels with Fujitsu Red Spirits, Espejo and team captain Johnvic De Guzman said that the Rebisco-backed national team has been showing great communication inside the court over the past days, which was the key to their strong showing against the powerhouse Japanese clubs
"Sinabi nga ni Johnvic, nung first day hindi lahat nagsasalita as in lahat hindi nakakapagcommunicate ng maayos tahimik lang. Tapos ngayon habang tumatagal ng tumatagal nakakapagusap na tapos may umaako na ng may responsibility," he said.
That's one thing that head coach Dante Alinsunurin loves about Espejo: being vocal and leading by example inside the court.
But the Cignal star said that it's not hard to communicate and guide his teammates as all of them have leadership skills and setting their sights on one goal.
"Konting advise lang siguro kasi alam naman nila yung gagawin e. Siguro para mapakita ko rin yung leadership ko kailangan ko rin gumalaw ng maayos kasi kung gumalaw ako ng maayos lahat susunod, hindi lang naman ako yung kailangan maging vocal lahat naman sa amin may iba iba ring tinuturo, vocal din talaga lahat," Espejo said.
True enough, the best is yet to come for this team as the Nationals will be finally complete as Bryan Bagunas, the current import of Oita Miyoshi, joins the squad on Monday's practice and see action in the first two of the last five tune-up games made possible by Larong Volleyball Sa Pilipinas Inc. and Philippine Sports Commission.
"Marami pa namang tune-up games and siguro palakas ng palakas talaga siguro mas makikita yung pwede naming improve. Sana matuto pa kami," Espejo said.