June 25, 2024

Key takeaways from Alas Pilipinas’ historic campaign in 2024 AVC Challenge Cup

Key takeaways from Alas Pilipinas’ historic campaign in 2024 AVC Challenge Cup
Alas Pilipinas are history makers. | Art by Mitzi Solano/One Sports | Photos (c) RM Chua/One Sports

Alas Pilipinas completed a historic campaign in the 2024 AVC Challenge Cup for Women.

The Philippines not only made its first semifinal appearance in an Asian Volleyball Confederation-sanctioned tournament in 63 years, it also secured its first-ever podium finish in the continental stage.

Here are the biggest takeaways from the Filipinas' bronze medal run.

Jia De Guzman, the ace of aces


Without a shadow of a doubt, Jia De Guzman has established herself as the heart, mind, and soul of Alas Pilipinas.

De Guzman was the orchestrator of the Philippines, conducting the offense as a seasoned maestro.

But her impact on the court is not merely a testament to her playmaking skills. It also speaks volumes on her leadership, acumen, and emotional influence. She never failed to provide teammates with a boost of confidence after they committed errors or after they absorbed opponents' rejections at the net.


GIVING CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE!! 🥹 Kapitana and Best Player of the Game Jia De Guzman turns emotional after achieving the historic bronze win for Alas Pilipinas in the 2024 AVC Women's Challenge Cup against Australia. #AlasPilipinas #AVCChallengeCup

? original sound - OneSportsPHL


[ALSO READ: Jia de Guzman reflects on ‘surreal’ feeling after leading Alas Pilipinas to a historic bronze in AVC Challenge Cup]

Whether in practice, in the huddle, or on the court, the reigning Best Setter of the Challenge Cup ensures her calm voice was heard.


JIA-LLIANT LEADER 🫡 Team captain Jia de Guzman stays level-headed as Alas Pilipinas tries to get back on track against Kazakhstan in the opening set. #AlasPilipinas #AVCChallengeCup

? original sound - OneSportsPHL

She also served as the emotional anchor of Alas, instilling a sense of belief within the team. This was exemplified when she encouraged Faith Nisperos to take charge.


JIA’S GOT FAITH 🙏 🇵🇭 Team Captain Jia Morado-De Guzman directs Faith Nisperos to the finish line and the third straight win for Alas Pilipinas in Pool A! #AlasPilipinas #AVCChallengeCup

? original sound - OneSportsPHL


[RELATED: “Bakit nakakaiyak?” #WWWSKPH lead Kim Chiu moved by Jia De Guzman's captain call for Faith Nisperos in Alas Pilipinas]


Angel Canino deserves to be an Alas mainstay


Doubts initially clouded the senior national team debut of Angel Canino.

Canino not only admitted that she was not at full strength due to a right arm injury sustained months before her maiden stint with Alas Pilipinas, she also had to adapt to a sudden change in her role.

Just days before the Challenge Cup, the La Salle standout was converted from her natural position of outside hitter to opposite spiker. 

[RELATED: From outside hitter to opposite spiker, Angel Canino says she's ready to fly for Alas Pilipinas]

@onesportsphl ALWAYS READY TO STEP UP 🫡 Angel Canino is happy with her team’s campaign in the 2024 AVC Challenge Cup for Women after securing a historic bronze medal finish, and bears her willingness to step up for Alas Pilipinas whenever she's needed. | via Aivan Episcope/One Sports Digital #OSOnTheSpot #AVCChallengeCup #AlasPilipinas ? original sound - OneSportsPHL

Still, Canino defied expectations, emerging as the leading scorer for the Philippines with a total of 78 points.

Her stellar plays earned her the title of Best Opposite Hitter of the tournament.

At just 20 years old, Canino is undeniably poised to be a cornerstone of Alas Pilipinas for years to come.


Sisi Rondina personifies heart over height

Standing at a modest 5-foot-6, Sisi Rondina is a testament that true greatness knows no height.

In the face of towering opponents, the 27-year-old lived up to her moniker, ‘Cherry Bomb’, as she detonated from all angles.

[ALSO READ: Sacrifices all worth it for Sisi Rondina as Alas Pilipinas capture historic bronze in 2024 AVC Challenge Cup]


HER ACE CARD NEVER DECLINES 🔥 Sisi Rondina SEALS THE BRONZE MEDAL for Alas Pilipinas as she fires the winning point to give the country a historic AVC finish against Australia! #AlasPilipinas #AVCChallengeCup

? original sound - OneSportsPHL

She immediately answered the call of duty, despite going all out in the recently-concluded Premier Volleyball League All-Filipino Conference finals. A former beach volleyball queen for the Philippines, Sisi couldn't help but wear the flag with pride.

@onesportsphl “Dinala namin ‘tong country, and they’re part of it!” 🇵🇭 Sisi Rondina expresses her appreciation to the fans who support them and believed in them amidst all of the doubts in their 2024 AVC Women's Challenge Cup campaign. | via Aivan Episcope/One Sports Digital #OSOnTheSpot #AVCChallengeCup #AlasPilipinas ? original sound - OneSportsPHL

While there were two games where she scored below double figures, Rondina demonstrated enough resilience and determination to silence doubters.

The former PVL MVP even left a strong impression on opponents. Just ask Kara Inskip and Caitlin Tipping of Australia.

[RELATED: AVC: Australia’s Caitlin Tipping draws inspiration from unrelenting Sisi Rondina, praises Alas Pilipinas]

Dawn Macandili-Catindig is more than just a defensive maestro



If De Guzman orchestrated the offensive symphony of Alas Pilipinas, Dawn Macandili-Catindig was just as instrumental in providing the bass, the background and foundation for the team's music in defense.


And throughout the Challenge Cup, the Cignal star demonstrated willingness to sacrifice her body, fearlessly diving and stretching to retrieve seemingly unreachable balls, ensuring that no point was conceded without a valiant effort.


[ALSO READ: May nanalo na!: Alas Pilipinas’ Jia Morado-de Guzman, Dawn Macandili-Catindig, and Thea Gagate are kilig overload with their partners’ greetings]


WALANG KUPAS 🔥🔥🔥 Dawn Macandili-CatinDIG giving her all to save the ball, and Angel Canino converts the dig to a point for Alas Pilipinas against India in Set 3! #AlasPilipinas #AVCChallengeCup

? original sound - OneSportsPHL


Beyond her defensive abilities, the 5-foot Catindig emerged as a strong vocal presence for Alas.


THE D IN DAWN MEANS DIG! 💥 Ms. Everywhere Dawn Macandili-Catindig showcased her excellent floor defense in the third for Alas Pilipinas against Australia. #AlasPilipinas #AVCChallengeCup

? original sound - OneSportsPHL


Not only did she send out directives on defense, but Dawn also shared a substantial leadership role with De Guzman by helping maintain the morale of the team.


The electric presence of Eya Laure is undeniable


Eya Laure has already proven her abilities on the international stage in the past, but what makes her an indispensable asset for the national team is her infectious energy.

The 25-year-old hotshot showed she is not just a solid contributor for Alas Pilipinas, Laure provided plenty of energy, flair, and passion in front of the home crowd.


With a subpar performance in the semifinals with only three points against Kazakhstan, Laure became emotional and sought comfort from her coach Kungfu Reyes and her collegiate ate Sisi Rondina. The next day, she shook it off and ensured the Philippines would reach the podium.


[ALSO READ: AVC: Eya Laure bares emotions after semis loss, shows resilience for Alas Pilipinas in bronze match]

She became quite a crowd favorite during the Challenge Cup, adding an extra layer of excitement and anticipation in each Alas Pilipinas outing.


The twin towers of Thea Gagate and Fifi Sharma are the real deal


The 6-foot-2 Thea Gagate and the 5-foot-10 Fifi Sharma may not measure up to the towering heights of some international middle blockers, but their impact for Alas Pilipinas is undeniable.

Gagate and Sharma compensated for height differential with their agility, quick reflexes, and precise blocking to challenge taller opponents at the net. 


[ALSO READ: Fifi Sharma thankful to have former DLSU teammate Thea Gagate for Alas Pilipinas journey]

Additionally, they formed a strong connection with De Guzman, consistently delivering damage through running spikes and quick attacks. Their presence also served as effective decoys, creating opportunities for the wingers through combination plays.

Jorge Souza De Brito proves doubters wrong


Jorge Souza De Brito faced nothing but backlash in the buildup to the AVC Challenge Cup.


However, after the one-week continental showpiece, the 1992 Barcelona Olympics gold medalist had turned most of his critics into believers.


Facing the challenge of a very limited training time as well as unfortunate circumstances with some of the players in the pool, the Brazilian coach showed he was adept in maximizing the potential of Alas Pilipinas.


For one, De Brito's bold move to convert Canino from outside hitter to opposite spiker worked wonders.


[ALSO READ: PNVF looks to extend Alas Pilipinas coach Jorge de Brito after historic start in 2024 AVC Challenge Cup]


His selection of players, initially questioned by some, proved pivotal as well. 


Aside from the usual starters, Vanie Gandler, Faith Nisperos, Jen Nierva, Arah Panique, Cherry Nunag, Julia Coronel, and Dell Palomata all had their moments of brilliance.


Panique in particular, a seldom-used player in the National University Lady Bulldogs' UAAP Sesaon 86 campaign, became a revelation for Alas with her scoring spree against Kazakhstan.

Alas Pilipinas brought volleyball fervor in the country to greater heights


Alas Pilipinas elevated the Philippines in both the FIVB women’s volleyball rankings, marking a significant leap from 63rd to 55th place in the global order and a rise from 12th to 8th place in the continental ladder, as of June 1.


These milestones have fueled the ever-growing fervor across the country, proving that volleyball is a contender as the top sport in the Philippines today.


And they're only just beginning.


With the national federation vowing to keep Alas Pilipinas intact, expect the growth of these players come the FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup in July at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium up to the Southeast Asian Games in Thailand next year.