63 Years Later: Alas Pilipinas Caps Off AVC Challenge Cup With Breakthrough Bronze Finish

Alas Pilipinas overcomes the odds to make history in the AVC Challenge Cup, sweeping Australia en route to a bronze medal finish.

Just a mere two weeks after their lineup was finalized, Alas Pilipinas capped off their historic AVC Challenge Cup run on the podium. 

The squad clinically swept Australia, 25-23, 25-15, 25-7, in the battle for bronze on Wednesday to end their AVC Challenge Cup campaign. With this, they now become the first Filipino squad to have a podium finish since joining AVC-sanctioned tournaments 63 years ago.

From a dominant showing in the preliminary round, Alas would proceed to book a semis berth, which in itself was already historic for a local squad. While facing Kazakhstan in the semifinals would be too much for them, Wednesday’s sweep easily healed any of the heartbreak from missing out on a gold or silver finish. 

“They really deserve it. They fight every single day, since they are really young, to make history here. And now history [was made] because of them, because they really trusted themselves today,” said head coach Jorge Souza de Brito.

Ironically, this run was done by a squad that was deprived of ample preparation time, something well-acknowledged even by the players themselves. So when they made a Cinderella run, it was much, much sweeter for the first-ever team under the Alas Pilipinas banner. 

In fact, according to high-flyer Sisi Rondina, Alas only had about four total training days before the tilt. Making matters worse, she estimated that the team was able to train as a complete unit for two days. 

Sobrang saya kasi walang nag-expect na ganito ‘yung outcome natin. Siguro pinandigan na talaga namin na…wala, nandito na ‘to, panindigan na natin,” said Rondina, who added initially declining a national team invite. 

Like Rondina, Alas Pilipinas captain Jia de Guzman also acknowledged the hectic preparation time and had tempered her expectations heading into the competition. 

Sobrang kulang din talaga ‘yung preparation namin as a team, like mabibilang mo sa kamay, marami na ‘yung tatlong araw. We just went into this tournament, sabi namin, kahit anong mangyari basta kung ano man ma-improve natin, bawa’t game kung anong mapupulot natin, we take it,” said an emotional de Guzman, who earned Player of the Game honors against the Volleyroos. 

And despite these odds, with last-minute pull-outs, and spikers adjusting to another position, this Alas Pilipinas squad mounted a surprise run. No championship yet, but it is a clear showing of how far Philippine volleyball has come. 

Hopefully the next time around, there will be no more hectic build-ups to hinder Alas Pilipinas.

“We’re just really hopeful, looking forward to more preparations for the upcoming tournaments that we will play. Kasi if ganoon ‘yung napakita namin ngayon [in the AVC Challenge Cup], we just hope na we keep improving and move on,” said de Guzman.

Banner Image courtesy of the Asian Volleyball Confederation

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