No Way But Up For Alas Pilipinas After Showing Fight Against Vietnam In Challenger Cup

Alas Pilipinas remains in high spirits despite dropping their Volleyball Challenger Cup bid against powerhouse Vietnam. 

Alas Pilipinas’ Volleyball Nations League bid is taking a backseat for now after suffering a straight set loss to Vietnam, 14-25, 22-25, 21-25 on Friday.

But that’s not to take away the fight they showed in the contest. After a sluggish opener, the Nationals proceeded to up their game in the second and third sets, even engaging in dogfights against World No. 33 Vietnam. 

Leading the Alas effort was Sisi Rondina, who scored a team-high 15 points. “Syempre sobrang thankful kami na nakaharap namin ‘yung Vietnam…ang dami naming kailangan pa i-improve. Syempre sobrang saya kasi ang daming nakapanood na mga kapwa Pilipino, at nagpapasalamat ako sa lahat ng suporta,” she said. 

Sabi lang ni Ate Jia na dapat wag isipin…pakita lang namin ‘yung kaya namin gawin and ayun, mayroon talaga [kami] kakayahan.” 

In the third set especially, Alas was close to forcing an extender, taking an 18-17 lead in crunch time. While the Nationals flamed out, it was clear that they gave the Southeast Asian team quite the scare. 

“I think what really happened there [Alas’ rally], we were really playing better, and they showed respect using the T4 [Trần Thị Thanh Thúy]…she’s supposed to be always the starting six, and they tried to make the starting lineup from AVC,” Alas mentor Jorge de Brito said, referring to Vietnam’s captain and star outside hitter who’s currently recovering from injury. 

“When you see your opponent putting their best player to play, it means that you’re growing up. That’s what I tell our players there inside, that they did a good job…that [Vietnam] had to put the first six to play against us.” 

In the lead up to the Challenger Cup, Alas Pilipinas also received new additions including Bella Belen and Jema Galanza. Belen especially, was part of the AVC Challenge Cup roster, but begged off due to personal commitments. 

On Friday, the pair finally debuted. While quiet, they now have at least one game with this current Alas Pilipinas program.

For her part, Belen acknowledged Alas’ upside, which could be met by having more time together.

“I think ginawa naman namin ‘yung best namin, and siguro kasi, ‘yung Vietnam kasi matagal na sila nagttraining. So kami kasi, lalo ako galing pa ako from vacation. So I think kaya naman ng team lumaban, mas kailangan lang nang mahabang preparation,” said Belen, who scored two points for Alas.

Galanza, meanwhile, had to deal with uncertainty, as she was initially considered to be this team’s second libero. Nonetheless, she’s just as proud to finally make her national team comeback. 

Syempre proud ako na nagging part ako nito. Happy lang ako palagi kasi eto ‘yung parang trial [kung saan pwede] mag grow as a player, and para bang mayroon pa akong matutunan sa mga kasama ko,” she said. 

Building on momentum 

Up next for Alas Pilipinas is the SEA V.League this August, where they’ll have an early look at their 2025 SEA Games opposition. 

“After today’s game, we go back to the drawing board, we go back to training. Improve what we can from this game,” said team captain Jia de Guzman. 

More than that, they’ll also face squads that have remained intact for the longest time – including Vietnam. “Tayo din naman ‘yun ‘yung goal, tumanda kami na magkakasama sa loob ng national team…That’s how you build chemistry, that’s how you build a strong team in the long run,” she said. 

As part of their V.League preparations, Alas will have a two-week training camp in Osaka, Japan. Hopefully the Nationals will be complete in that whole 14-day gathering. 

“This training camp in Japan will help us, but also we need to have our players more time together to work. So we can add something in the system and we’ll be okay. That is what step by step means growing up,” said de Brito.

While it’s still a small sample size, de Brito had this to say: “Right now, I can feel the power inside our players. Not only now…they always have…we never give up. We are there playing, whether it’s 20, or two points behind, but they always fight. That’s what we need from now [on].”

Banner Image from FIVB.

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