SUWON CITY, South Korea --- Philippine men’s volleyball team head coach Sammy Acaylar likes the improvement of his wards midway through their two-week training camp here.
After four tune-up matches, a daily grueling strength and endurance grind, as well as developing team chemistry in and off the court, Acaylar yesterday gave his team a satisfactory mark.
But the mentor knows there is still a lot of work to be done to whip his team into a strong medal contender in the 29th Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia slated on August 19 to 31.
“I’m happy that we are able to identify and address our weakness in service receive, blocking and floor coverage,” said Acaylar, the architect of the last PH squad to earn a podium spot in the biennial meet after steering the Nationals to a bronze medal finish in 1991.
The Nationals won a total of three sets in tune-up games against the Korean U-19 team, Korean Universiade U-23 squad and club team Hwasung City. Acaylar requested all of their tune-up games to be played for five sets regardless of the results of the frame to immerse his wards to high level of volleyball competition.
“Ang pinakaimportante lang doon ay every time we have a tune-up game ay nagi-improve sila. Nagi-improve ang team natin. Nakikita ko na kahit galing kami sa conditioning training tuwing umaga, they work and push themselves to improve,” he said.
“Nakikita nila kung saan sila nagkakamali and nakakatulong din sa atin ang mga Korean coaches para matuto tayo at ipakita sa atin kung saan pa tayo dapat mag-improve,” added Acaylar, whose team was sent by Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. to train in Korea with the help of FIVB and AVC council member Ramon ‘Tats’ Suzara.
The Nationals, bannered by team captain John Vic De Guzman, top setter Geuel Asia, power-hitter Mark Alfafara and young gun Bryan Bagunas had its most impressive match against the Korean U-19 team last Monday.
Despite a huge disadvantage in height compared to the towering Korean youth team, which has an average height of 6-foot-5, the Filipinos won two of the five sets, 26-24, 17-25, 22-25, 25-22, 11-15, that caught the attention of head coach Park Wongil.
“I’m really impressed because your team is really better than what I expected,” said Wongil.
The Nationals played the U-19 team in a rematch last Wednesday but was blanked by the Koreans, 14-25, 16-25, 23-25, 25-27, 12-15, in a practice game where the Filipinos just the morning before received a huge blow after spiker Greg Dolor suffered an open wound, left pinky fracture during a blocking drill.
Dolor needed a surgery to repair the damage, ruling him out of the biennial meet. Reserve Peter Quiel of Far Eastern University took his spot.
The Nationals lost, 16-25, 20-25, 19-25, 25-27, to Korea’s Universiade team, composed of the country’s finest collegiate players, last Tuesday before giving Hwasung City fits in a 20-25, 25-17, 19-25, 14-25, 16-25, decision Thursday.
Five more tune-up games are scheduled for the Nationals before they return to Manila on August 3. The Filipinos will then fine tune their game before flying to Malaysia where they will take on Indonesia, Vietnam and East Timor in the group stage.