“This is the beginning of a new era in Philippine volleyball and you all are part of history. Let’s not look at what happened in the past, but now let’s focus on what we can do for the future.”
These were the words of the interim President of the Philippine Volleyball Federation (PVF) Karl Chan as he addressed the coaching staff of the new national men’s team shortly before try-outs commenced in preparation for the Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championship which will be held on our home soil for the very first time on April 8-16.
Chan led the PVF delegation which included Secretary General Rustico “Otie” Camangian and a phalanx of coaches and officials to oversee the initial try-outs for the squad. Tournament sponsor and Philippine team backer PLDT HOME Fibr was also represented during the proceedings with PLDT Senior Finance Manager Francis A. Bautista leading his team of supporters for the first formation of a national men’s team since 2009.
“Kung hindi tumindig ang balahibo niyo kapag nakakabit ang bandila ng Pilipinas sa inyong dibdib, may problema kayo,” said Camangian—a former national team skipper—upon briefing the aspirants prior to the rigorous process held at the San Juan Arena, shortly after the pulsating UAAP women’s volleyball matchup between FEU and Adamson.
“We’re looking for the best team we can form. The coaches will look at your volleyball skills, of course, but we are also looking for those non-volleyball skills that can help make a difference in creating the best team. Naghahanap kami ng team na ‘marurunong’ kesa ‘magagaling’. It’s time we put Philippine volleyball back on the map and that, today, begins with all of you,” Camangian emphasized during his very inspiring speech for the would-be national campaigners.
While the Head Coach of the team has not yet been revealed by the PVF, it was PLDT MyDSL champion coach Francis Vicente along with Mapua Cardinals mentor Ronald Dulay who shared in the task of separating the wannabes from the actual national team material as a number of walk-ons also showed up; joining the candidates that were invited by the PVF.
From those who saw action in the recently concluded Philippine Super Liga (PSL) Grand Prix, league MVP Kheeno Franco led an elite cast of hopefuls and did not disappoint as he continually bombarded the opposing defenses during the actual scrimmage. Systema’s AJ Pareja and Rocky Honrade also showed why they could be the leading candidates to snare a slot in the Middle Hitters’ position, while former UP Maroons star Nico Lucindo and UST wunderkinds John Depante, Jayson Ramos and Henry Pecaña also impressed.
It was the performance of 47-year-old actor/sportsman Richard Gomez that wowed the sparse crowd who came to witness the proceedings as the former PUP varsity stalwart displayed his skills on both offense and defense all throughout the long try-outs.
“Volleyball is really my first sport,” the Bulacan native said. “I was a varsity player in college and I’ve worked very hard to get my old form back.”
From the collegiate scene, the powerhouse NU Bulldogs sent their four best players in Reyson Fuentes, Jan Paglinawan, Vincent Mangulabnan and reigning UAAP MVP Peter Den Mar Torres and all four made more than a good account of themselves. UP’s Samuel Paquiz slimmed down considerably and he displayed his newfound agility time and time again while UE’s Carlo Almario highlighted his libero skills by constantly trying to wipe the floor with his uniform.
There were a lot of surprising walk-ons, especially from the Philippine Air Force (PAF) as Tawi-Tawi native Alnakran Abdilla seemed to defy gravity and Alsali Pajiji showed uncanny abilities on defense. Rizal Technological University’s Jeffrey Malabanan also raised a few eyebrows with his high-flying kills, while PMMS’ John Angelo Macalma showed his innate prowess in setting.
Here is the complete list of those who showed up for the national try-out’s first day:
Name Ht. School Pos. Age Province
Alnakran Abdilla 6-2 DLS-D O 21 Tawi-Tawi
Carlo Almario 5-6 UE L 21 Batangas
Jay Joseph Chua 5-2 Letran L 26 MM
Dexter Clamor 5-10 UPHSD S 22 Bataan
Salvador Juan Depante III 6-0 UST O 22 MM
Paul Doloiras 5-5 UST L 25 Cavite
Angelo Espiritu 6-1 CSB U 28 Cavite
Christian Fernandez 5-11 UST S 29 Manila
Kheeno Franco 6-1 EARIST M 23 Pampanga
Reyson Fuentes 6-4 NU M 22 Bulacan
Ron Jay Galang 6-2 AdU O 23 Pampanga
Richard Gomez 6-2 PUP O 47 Bulacan
Sylvester Gil Honrade 6-4 SBC M 27 Aklan
Rhenze Hu 5-7 CSB L 24 Bacolod
Nino Jeruz 6-4 AdU M 24 Bicol
Rodolfo Labrador 6-1 FEU O 22 Marinduque
Gilbert Longavela 5-8 UST L 23 Bulacan
Jessie Lopez 5-9 FEU S 27 Laguna
John Carlo Lozada 5-7 AU L 25 Bulacan
Dominico Lucindo 6-0 UP O 22 MM
John Angelo Macalma 6-0 PMMS S 23 Tarlac
Jeffrey Malabanan 6-1 RTU U 24 Bulacan
Vincent Mangulabnan 5-10 NU S 19 Batangas
Ace Mandani 6-2 UE M 19 Tarlac
Jan Berlin Paglinawan 6-1 NU O 23 Bicol
Alsali Pajiji 6-0 PMMS M 21 Tawi-Tawi
Samuel Stephen Paquiz 6-4 UP U 23 MM
Andre Joseph Pareja 6-4 AdMU M 25 Nueva Ecija
Henry James Pecaña 5-11 UST U 24 Laguna
Jayson Ramos 6-3 UST M 22 S. Kudarat
Patrick John Rojas 5-11 AdU O 20 Bicol
Mark Anthony Santos 5-11 UE S 29 MM
Peter Den Mar Torres 6-3 NU M 20 Leyte
Among the iconic names noticeably absent from the first day were former UAAP Best Scorer Chris Macasaet, former FEU setting ace Pitrus de Ocampo and Ateneo rookie sensation Marck Espejo, but the coaches know that this is just Day 1.
“We have two more try-out dates on Saturday (January 18th) and Sunday (January 19th) here, so others who could not make it today still have a chance to serve flag and country,” Camangian said.
One of the coaches even openly expressed his hopes about the foreign reinforcements that will be acquired to beef up the roster.
“I hope we get a Korean setter,” the coach confided, in the vernacular. “We will learn a lot from him and maybe the second import could be another Korean quicker.”
The PVF is running short on time, however, as the deadline looms for the submission of the line-up for the tourney.
One of the coaches also hinted that they have already chosen a few players who they feel are shoo-ins for the squad when the try-outs ended. Some names indicated to me were quite surprising, but then again it was only the first day and everything will still go through a long process—with much haste.
Chan hit it on the head.
We—you and I included—are all part of this new chapter in Philippine volleyball. Later on, it will be the women’s turn to form their team and once a solid national team program has been established, the debacles of the past will seem like ancient history.
It is exciting times for Philippine volleyball. Let’s all bear witness to the evolution.
Photo Credit : Sam Santana
Article by Noel Zarate / Click Yahoo Philippines Article Here