Vanie Gandler, 'Second Six' Provide For Alas Pilipinas

Magic Bunot: Vanie Gandler, ‘Second Six’ Provide Spark Versus Iran For Alas Pilipinas

Led by Vanie Gandler and Cherry Nunag, the Alas Pilipinas bench came up strong in a huge sweep over Iran in the 2024 AVC Challenge Cup. 

Three games into the 2024 AVC Challenge Cup, coach Jorge Souza de Brito decided to give Alas Pilipinas’ second stringers extended playing time against Iran. The writing was on the wall early, as Vanie Gandler and Cherry Nunag started in place of Eya Laure and Thea Gagate respectively for the matchup.

And de Brito’s decision to activate his bench seemed to pay off, with Alas Pilipinas sweeping Iran 25-16, 25-13, 25-15 to book a semifinals berth in the regional tilt. Gandler chipped in nine points to accompany solid outings from Angel Canino (16 points) and Sisi Rondina (12 points), while Nunag added a modest four points of her own. 

Gandler and Nunag were sound contributors in Alas’ solid first-set start, combining for seven points as the Nationals prevented another opening disaster. 

“I’m just really happy to help the team, be able to help Eya, ‘cause you know, it’s a tournament where we play everyday and they get tired too. So I know that our role as second stringers is very important so they get enough rest, so that everyone is strong, especially coming into the semis now that…we made it,” Gandler told reporters post-game. 

Nunag, meanwhile, was first to acknowledge her need for continued improvement, and not being able to show her wares just yet. Regardless, she’s just as grateful for the opportunity given to her by de Brito. 

Kailangan ready ako palagi as a second six kasi mabilis lang ‘yung tournament namin, everyday kami naglalaro so kailangan always prepared ka pa din. Anytime na kunin ka niya [de Brito] sa labas, kahit ‘di ka first six or ikaw ‘yung unahin niya, it’s okay…pero ang goal ko is malabas ko ‘yung laro ko everytime na ipapasok niya ako,” said Nunag. 

After their match versus Chinese Taipei on Sunday, Alas Pilipinas’ campaign continues until the semifinals. Per PNVF president Tats Suzara, Alas’ feat “is the first time that a Philippine team — by any gender — has ever made it to an AVC competition semifinals.” 

“To be honest, with the preparation we had, we didn’t really put much expectations, but I always knew that this team would fight, so I’m not surprised that every game, everyone put their hearts into it,” said Vanie Gandler. 

For Nunag, a semis berth is a “long awaited” feat by the local volleyball community, given that it’s something that hasn’t been done before. “So for me, it’s a big privilege for me to be part of the national team, lalo na itong batch na ‘to kasi sobrang ganda ng performance and ‘yung gustong ilabas ng mga bata, nakatuwa, nakaka-inspire, nakaka-proud sila,” she said. 

‘They have the level’ 

Besides Vanie Gandler and Cherry Nunag, Alas also received some contributions from Faith Nisperos, Juju Coronel, Arah Panique, and Dell Palomata. In particular, Nisperos came up big for the Nationals, as she scored Alas’ final two points in the third set. 

Syempre po, I do everything naman with every chance that I can get, kaya nung pinasok po ako, [all] I can think [of] is para sa teammates ko, para sa coaches ko, para sa bayan lalaban ako,” said Nisperos.

For his part, coach de Brito is unsurprised with the talent within his squad. “The level of all of these 14 [girls] that are here, and also [we] have many other players that are not here now, they have the level to keep the national team really very strong and consistent,” he said. 

And now that Alas is semis bound, de Brito highlighted the importance of playing high-level games, both for local volleyball fans, and this current squad.

Banner Image courtesy of the Asian Volleyball Confederation.

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