PHILIPPINE men’s volleyball team head coach Dante Alinsunurin and his players are happy to see the light at the end of the tunnel after more than a year of inactivity.
Alinsunurin is grateful that men’s volleyball is finally making progress after the COVID-19 pandemic halted its momentum from its historic silver medal run in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
The Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF) Inc. along with Alinsunurin and his coaching staff have formed a 20-man pool, which is set to return to action in a bubble training in Subic in June for its buildup in the 31st SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam.
“Masaya ako dahil finally nagkakaroon na ng linaw ang training ng Men’s Volleyball Team. Mapaghahandaan na naman namin ang SEA Games,” Alinsunurin told Spin.ph.
Thirteen players out of the 20-member pool were part of the historic squad in the previous biennial meet headed by Marck Espejo, Bryan Bagunas, and skipper John Vic De Guzman.
Alinsunurin said he needs the familiarity and continuity from his previous squad which also includes middle blockers Kim Malabunga, Francis Saura, and Rex Intal, setters Joshua Retamar, Jessie Lopez, and Ish Polvorosa, spikers Mark Alfafara and Jao Umandal as well as liberos Jack Kalingking and Ricky Marcos.
“Mataas ang kompiyansa ko sa mga medalist players, unang-una may experience na sila lumaban ng championship. Nakasama ko na rin sila and alam ko kung ano pa ang pwede nilang i-contribute sa team,” he said. “Siyempre masaya at excited ako dahil magkakasama-sama na ulit kami sa training.”
The national team coach is also elated to have new pool members Joeven Dela Vega, Ysay Marasigan, JP Bugaoan, Lloyd Josafat, Nico Almendras, Kim Dayadante, and Manuel Sumanguid, who could be great additions to ensure continuity of the Philippine men’s program.
“Based sa post assessment naming mga coaches sa result ng last SEA Games, sa tingin namin sila ang pwedeng makatulong kung ano man ang pagkukulang namin that time,” Alinsunurin said. “At siyempre para sa continuity ng program para sa men’s volleyball.”
Alfafara and Lopez, the veteran members in the pool, can’t wait to reunite with their coaches and teammates in their bubble training after one year of inactivity.
“Hindi ko na ma-explain kung gaano ako kasaya through words pero hindi natatapos lahat yan sa kasiyahan lang o masaya na ko na napabilang ako kasi may kaakibat yan na responsibilidad,” Alfafara said. “Very few are chosen para sa spot na yan so hindi pepwedeng: ‘Ah okay na ko napabilang na ko.’ Meron po talagang siyang kasamang responsibilidad na para pag-igihan mo pa doon sa opportunity na naibigay sayo.”
Lopez is excited to finally return to face-to-face trainings once they enter the bubble and begin their road to the SEA Games, even though they have to be away from their families for months.
“After ng mahabang paghihintay makakabalik na ulit kame sa training,” he said. “Medyo nakakalungkot kasi bubble for sure hindi ka talaga makakalabas sa training area and mamimiss ko yung asawa at mga anak ko. Pero willing naman kami mag sacrifice para sa bayan.”
Alfafara said they have to make the most of their bubble training for them to reach their quest for the SEA Games gold as their rival countries have been preparing since last year.
“Yung ibang teams na nakalaban namin parang last year pa lang nakapagstart na sila; kami ngayon pa lang June,” he said. “Kailangan talaga trabahuin lahat kasi siyempre hindi kami magse-settle hanggang silver lang. Inaasam talaga ng lahat na makamit yung ginto.”
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