The core of the national’s men’s team competing in the ongoing Southeast Asian Volleyball League (V.League) will banner the country’s return to the Asian Games in Hangzhou in China in September.
Though still in the hunt for a breakthrough win, the bulk of the Filipino spikers currently playing in the SEA V.League will be tasked to carry the fight in the 19th Asiad in September, according to Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNFV) president Ramon “Tats” Suzara.
“I think the core players here will definitely go to the Asian Games,” said Suzara at the sidelines of the SEA V.League, his brainchild tournament with Thailand federation president Shanrit Wongprasert, in the City of Santa Rosa in Laguna.
Among the anticipated leaders for the Philippines’ Asiad comeback after 49 years are the troika of Bryan Bagunas, Marck Espejo and rising star Steven Rotter.
The last time the Philippines played in the Asian Games was in 1974 in Tehran where the country finished in sixth place.
Bagunas and Espejo missed the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia last summer but returned to the team with a bang while Rotter has been a revelation so far for the Philippines since the SEA Games, Asian Volleyball Confederation Challenge Cup and the SEA V. League.
The Philippines finished 10th in its AVC debut and fifth in the SEA Games. In the second leg of the SEA V.League, the local spikers after a winless Leg 1 campaign in Jakarta last week, have been showing huge improvement so far.
Suzara said the youth power of Rotter and the wealth of experience of the Bagunas-Espejo combo could do wonders for the Philippines in an expected tough Asiad campaign.
“I think we’re back in the level of men’s volleyball. We have new young players coming in and with the experience of Bagunas and Espejo, it will drive more encouragement enthusiasm to our national team,” Suzara said.
This time, the country will be in for a tall order in Hangzhou after being bunched with Volleyball Nations League bronze medalist and 16-time Asian Games champion Japan, SEA Games king Indonesia and Afghanistan.
“I hope that this will continue. I know we have a lot of work to do in many aspects,” Suzara said. “But we will get there.”
The Philippines played Vietnam last night at the City of Santa Rosa Multi-Purpose Complex in Laguna at the culmination of the three-day SEA V.League.