MANILA, Philippines — Bryan Bagunas liked what he saw from the Philippine men’s volleyball team despite the short Asian Games campaign in Hangzhou, China.
The Filipino Spikers ended their first Asian Games appearance in 49 years after losing to Japan, 19-25, 14-25, 23-25, on Thursday at Deqing Sports Centre Gymnasium two days before the Asiad officially opens.
The Philippines (1-2) failed to make the top two in Pool F with Japan (3-0) and Indonesia (2-1) advancing to the next round.
But for Bagunas, the men’s volleyball program was able to show its improvement, proving that they belong in the continental competition.
“Nakita ko naman po yung improvement ng (Philippine) men’s volleyball team and sobrang nagulat din ako na lumalaban na kami dito sa Asian Games. After 49 years sobrang nakakabilib na nandito kami at sana magtuloy tuloy na,” said Bagunas after scoring 10 points.
(We saw the improvement of the men’s volleyball team and I was surprised too that we were able to put up a good fight here in the Asian Games. It amazes me that we’re finally here after 49 years and hopefully, this is just the start.)
The Filipinos displayed a valiant effort against world No. 5 Japan in the third set before the Japanese broke a 23-all to seal their straight-set win.
A day before their duel against the Volleyball Nations League bronze medalist, the Nationals earned their first win in the Asiad after nearly five decades when they swept Afghanistan, 25-23, 25-16, 25-12.
Bagunas hopes for continuity in the men’s volleyball program so their brief but precious Asian Games experience won’t be put to waste.
“Sana magtuloy tuloy yung training namin. Sana huwag mahinto then sana sumali pa kami sa iba’t ibang tournament para nandoon yung exposure and makagain kami ng experience,” he said.
(I just hope our training continues. I hope it doesn’t stop here and that we’re able to join more tournaments and gain more exposure and experience.)
Things are looking up for the men’s volleyball team after the program started the year in disarray after the removal of coach Dante Alinsunurin followed by Bagunas and Marck Espejo skipping the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia due to respective commitments.
Before the Asiad, the Philippine National Volleyball Federation had bared its plans to keep the core of the team under Brazilian coach Sergio Veloso and continue competing in international tournaments.
Bagunas will return to Taiwan as the reigning Top Volleyball League MVP rejoins WinStreak in their title-retention bid, while Espejo will make his Korean V-League debut with the Incheon Korean Air Jumbos.
The Spikers’ Turf second conference will open in October.