With eyes on top prize, PH men’s volleyball team eager to make most of Qatar camp

FILE–The Philippine men’s volleyball team celebrates a point against Thailand. INQUIRER PHOTO/AUGUST DELA CRUZ

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine men’s volleyball team coach Dante Alinsunurin will leave no stone unturned in their two-week Qatar training camp, hoping it will result to a gold medal in the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi Vietnam on May 12.

During the virtual send off of the Philippine National Volleyball Federation for its beach volleyball and men’s national squads, Alinsunurin remembered their historic silver medal finish in the 2019 SEA Games that was made possible by their training camp in Japan.

This time, the multi-titled UAAP coach of National University is hoping to pull off the same formula in their two-week training camp starting on March 20, where they will face Qatar’s top club teams.

“I believe we still have what it takes to surpass our previous runner-up finish despite the two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic. We were able to make up for lost time last year,” Alinsunurin said on Tuesday. “I’m glad we have more time to prepare this year. We hope to improve the things we lack in the previous SEA Games and gain more exposure and polish our service receive when we train in Qatar.”

“We will continue to fight this SEA Games,” he added.

John Vic de Guzman (above) celebrates during the Philippines victory over Thailand in the 2019 SEA Games. —AUGUST DELA CRUZ

Although they will only train in Qatar until April 5, men’s national team captain John Vic De Guzman is optimistic that this is the right path for them to bounce back from their finals loss to Indonesia three years ago.

“Last SEA Games, the formula made by our coaches in training brought us to the finals. This upcoming build-up in Qatar will help us improve our skills and chemistry for us to surpass what we achieved in 2019,” De Guzman said. “We always think we will get positive results this coming SEA Games.”

Alinsunurin and his wards recently broke camp from a six-week bubble training in Taguig to keep his wards in top shape despite not having a league for men’s volleyball since the PNVF Champions League in November.

“We had an opportunity to train since the government is easing the pandemic restrictions. We are aiming to gain more exposure in our upcoming tune-up games in Qatar. That’s what we need before the SEA Games,” he said.

Jau Umandal, who played for Bani Jamra in Bahrain, will lead the 17-player delegation also composed of reigning SEA Games silver medalist De Guzman, Mark Alfafara, Kim Malabunga, Rex Intal, Francis Saura, Jessie Lopez, Joshua Retamar, Ish Polvorosa and Jack Kalingking.

Pool members Ysay Marasigan, Manuel Sumanguid, Kim Dayandante, Joeven Dela Vega, Nico Almendras and Lloyd Josafat are also part of the build-up, where they will train twice a day, team practice in the morning and play tune-up games with Qatar club teams.

Stars Marck Espejo and Bryan Bagunas will miss the overseas training camp due to their ongoing campaign in Japan V.League. But Alinsunurin sees no problem since with the two ace spikers joining the team in the final week of April since Bagunas had the same situation in 2019.

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