TOKYO – Philippine men’s volleyball team coaches have a beautiful problem in their hands.
Putting together the cream of the crop of Philippine men’s volleyball for the 30th Southeast Asian Games, Dante Alinsunurin and his coaching staff have brought together top setters from three different generations.
So how does it work for the three national team setters, Jessie Lopez, Ish Polvorosa and Joshua Retamar?
“Sa amin kasi tatlong setters, walang sapawan," said Lopez, who is the most seasoned setter among the three. "Kung ikaw yung binigyan ng task ngayon, gawin mo yung task tapos tutulungan ka namin sa labas,”
At 33, Lopez accepted his role and took a step back with less playing time. But he has a bigger purpose in the team, guiding the younger setters like a playing-coach and entering games during crucial moments.
Lopez said their diverse styles will be an advantage to Team Philippines.
“Different style ng sets, different strategies. Malaking bagay din sa makakalaban namin na (tatlo kaming setter), hindi kami basta basta nababasa,” the veteran playmaker said. “Iba yung style ni Ish, Iba yung kay Joshua, iba yung system ko.”
In Tokyo, Polvorosa serves as the starting setter of the Rebisco-backed Nationals. The former Ateneo setter may be the least familiar with Alinsunurin’s system, but his relationship with Retamar and Lopez helps in the learning process.
“Sobrang ganda ng combination for me kasi yung bonding namin and 'yung jelling namin as teammates andun,” the five-time UAAP Best Setter said.
“Pare-parehas kaming setters from different generations, merong kasimula pa lang sa higher level, merong talagang pinaglumaan na ng panahon pero nakita naman natin sobrang galing pa rin.
"We have our different strengths and weaknesses na we can augment each other when it comes to our different playing styles and the team needs pagdating sa loob ng court,” he added.
Retamar is the youngest member of the national team at age 19 but he has been given a huge responsibility as Polvorasa’s back-up in the training camp. He even had extended playing time during the Philippines’ five-setter tune-up against Top Division 2 team Fujitsu Red Spirits last Saturday.
The rookie is also the tallest among the three at 6 feet, and already familiar with Alinsunurin’s system after his first UAAP season.
“Everytime na papasok mo yan gagawa at gagawa talaga siya. Kasi, una, lamang talaga siya sa height, kulang pa sa experience lang,” said Alinsunurin of Retamar. “Sabi ko lang sa kanya, mag-observe ka lang pag nasa labas ka, alamin mo ano yung dapat gawin mo, ano yung kulang ng setters natin, then pagpasok mo ready ka lagi.”
His young playmaker agreed.
“Ngayon kasi si kuya Ish yung ginagamit. Siguro feeling ni coach pag galing po ako sa bench tas pag ipapasok mas maganda laro ko.”
Retamar is just making the most of this national team experience, learning from both Lopez and Polvorosa.
"Ahead po talaga sila sa akin. Sila po may experience na sa international na mga laban so lagi ko silang kinakausap, lagi akong nagpapatulong,” Retamar said. “Lalo na kay coach Jess kung paano po yung gagawin ko, kung ano yung diskarte ko."
But Alinsunurin admitted that come SEA Games, he will have to choose one playmaker who will play a bulk of the minutes. That makes the remaining days of the Tokyo training camp crucial for the three setters.
“Sabi ko nga sa kanila, this week obserbahan ko kayo kung sino talaga yung pwede gamitin sa SEA Games,” Alinsunurin said. “Siguro sa latter part ng training camp namin doon magfo-focus kung sino na pinaka magagamit sa loob ng court.”