//Highlights

Alas Pilipinas Is Here: The Star-Studded Lineup For The 2024 AVC Challenge Cup 

Now known as Alas Pilipinas, the immediate picture becomes clear for the country’s national volleyball teams, starting with the AVC Women’s Challenge Cup 2024. 

Wednesday, May 15, will go down as a landmark day for Philippine volleyball. On top of the possible UAAP volleyball endgames, there were not one, but two major announcements for our national team. 

First, was the moniker for the national team: Alas Pilipinas which applies to all squads- from the men’s, to the women’s and even beach volleyball divisions. This is unlike in 2015, where the women’s team once went by “Amihan” and the men’s squad being called “Bagwis”. 

“We’re delighted to kickstart this new chapter for Philippine volleyball by unveiling Alas Pilipinas, our new names for the national teams both in indoor and beach and for both men and women,” PNVF president Ramon “Tats” Suzara said at a press conference held in Mandaluyong.  

We’re humbled with the outpouring support that volleyball has garnered over the past few years and we believe that it’s high time for us to rally on one singular name for our national teams.” 

But more than the moniker reveal, Wednesday also saw a roster reveal, particularly for the AVC Women’s Challenge Cup which starts this May 22. Just like that, tons of speculation and on-record confirmations were finally announced in an official capacity. 

Here’s the 16-strong lineup as announced by Suzara: 

UAAP: 

  • Aly Solomon – NU Lady Bulldogs
  • Angel Canino – La Salle Lady Spikers
  • Bella Belen – NU Lady Bulldogs
  • Casiey Dongallo – UE Lady Warriors 
  • Julia Coronel – La Salle Lady Spikers
  • Thea Gagate – La Salle Lady Spikers 

PVL:

  • Cherry Nunag – Choco Mucho Flying Titans
  • Dell Palomata – PLDT High Speed Hitters 
  • Dawn Macandili-Catindig – Cignal HD Spikers
  • Eya Laure – Chery Tiggo Crossovers
  • Faith Nisperos – Akari Chargers
  • Fifi Sharma – Akari Chargers 
  • Jennifer Nierva – Chery Tiggo Crossovers
  • Jia Morado-de Guzman – Creamline/Denso Airybees 
  • Sisi Rondina – Choco Mucho Flying Titans 
  • Vanessa Gandler – Cignal HD Spikers

So, based on what we’ve seen, our Alas Pilipinas volleybelles lean more toward fairly new-generation stars mixed with just enough veteran presence. Now, the question is, can they build just enough chemistry come the AVC Challenge Cup next week? 

Next-generation superteam

Simply put, this Alas Pilipinas women’s pool is a next-generation superteam. 

For playmaking there’s Jia Morado-De Guzman, who may bring her learnings from Japan into her national team return. Let’s not forget, De Guzman was the Creamline dynasty’s main playmaker before going to Japan, and that role landed her four Finals MVP awards and six total championships with the PVL darlings. 

Backing her up is La Salle’s Season 86 captain Juju Coronel. While she still has a ways to go, Coronel isn’t too bad of a playmaker, and she might as well receive mentorship from De Guzman along the way. 

Floor defense will be manned by rising star Jen Nierva and Dawn Macandili. While Nierva is only finding her stride as a pro, Macandili is already tried and tested in both the pro, and national team play, having garnered Best Libero Awards in regional meets before. 

On the net, Alas Pilipinas has the 6’3 stud in Dell Palomata, alongside Fifi Sharma, who has been doing fine early as a PVL pro, and Choco Mucho revelation Cherry Nunag. All eyes should also be on Thea Gagate, who will make her national team debut as well. 

Offensively, De Guzman and Coronel have downright cannons to choose from. Laure and Rondina have remained lethal in the PVL, alongside Nisperos and Gandler. In the collegiate ranks, UE’s super rookie Casiey Dongallo is the Season 86 scoring champ with 291 points in her debut year.

Belen and Solomon meanwhile, form part of NU’s offensive troika, while Canino is one of La Salle’s main offensive weapons…alongside Gagate. 

And besides these dedicated spikers, we can trust that Morado and Coronel’s playmaking will also create opportunities for their middle blockers on top of protecting Alas Pilipinas’ side of the taraflex. 

Talent aside, a good chunk of Alas Pilipinas women have prior national experience on the taraflex. Names like Laure, Nunag  Nisperos, Morado, Palomata, and Macandili have all represented the country in regional meets, namely the SEA Games, and the Asian Volleyball Cup among others. 

In the collegiate side, Belen and Solomon were part of the NU-laden squad that competed in the Asian Women’s Volleyball Championship in 2023. If it counts, Canino was also part of the Under-23 team in the ASEAN School Games. 

Just as stacked in the men’s side 

During the press conference, only five men’s players were present in Cignal’s Jau Umandal, JP Bugaoan, and Lloyd Josafat, Criss Cross’s Marck Espejo, and La Salle’s Noel Kampton. 

Although it was later confirmed that names like Bryan Bagunas, Nico Almendras, Mark Calado, Chao Diao, Jade Disquitado, Menard Guerrero, Leo Ordiales, Owa Retamar, Josh Ybañez, Louie Ramirez, Peng Taguibolos, and Adrian Villados will also be included. 

Most volleyball fans should be most familiar with Espejo, being one of the best collegiate players in his time as an Ateneo Blue Eagle. Most recently, Espejo also completed a tour of duty in Korea before joining the Criss Cross King Crunchers in Spikers’ Turf.

Bagunas is another household name in men’s volleyball, earning his stripes as NU’s best in his time (like Espejo with Ateneo). Bagunas also has overseas experience, playing in Japan and Taiwan between 2019 to 2023 before making his Spikers’ Turf debut this year. 

So like De Guzman, expect that Espejo and Bagunas will bring their overseas learnings into Alas Pilipinas mens’. 

Of course, there’s also Jau Umandal, who once battled with Bagunas in the UAAP.  Also a lethal scorer in UST, Umandal has since blossomed into one of the Spikers’ Turf’s best with a league MVP to his name. 

Like the women’s side, these men have also donned the national colors at least once. Within the pool, Umandal, Bugaoan, Josafat, Espejo, Kampton, Ordiales, Almendras, and Villados among others previously represented the country in regional meets namely the Asian Games and SEA Games.

Banner Image courtesy of Cignal.


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