The Philippine men’s national volleyball team found itself in unexpected, unfamiliar territory on Thursday: With a golden opportunity to advance past the group stage and into the Round of 12 with a win over Japan.
The national team, though, could not get the job done, falling to a young but still dynamic Japanese squad in straight sets, 25-19, 25-14, 25-23.
It was not the result the Philippines wanted, that is for sure, but at least it made some steps in the right direction. Such was the assessment of national team veteran Bryan Bagunas, who impressed fans with his spectacular performance versus Indonesia in a losing cause and his equally impressive encore against Afghanistan on Wednesday.
“Nakita ko naman ‘yung improvement ng men’s volleyball team,” Bagunas told One Sports' Mei-Lin Lozada after the match against Japan. “Nagulat rin ako na lumalaban na kami rito sa Asian Games, after 49 years. Sobrang nakakabilib na andito kami at sana, magtuloy-tuloy lang.”
And, if the 25-year-old former NU Bulldog could have his way, he wants the national team to keep at it and keep building.
“Sana magtuloy-tuloy ‘yung training namin, sana ‘wag mahinto,” Bagunas said. “Then, sana sumali pa kami sa iba’t ibang tournament para nandun ‘yung exposure and maka-gain kami ng experience.”
That is a man with a plan. And if the powers-that-be at the Philippine National Volleyball Federation are smart enough, they will oblige Bagunas’ fervent desires.
After all, the national team already has some pretty good cornerstones in Bagunas and Marck Espejo. All it needs now is an infusion of more talent, a lot of training time together as a team, and more opportunities to showcase what it can do.
(With reports from Mei-Lin Lozada, One Sports Digital)