Alas Pilipinas podium finish ushers in new era for PH volleyball

Alas Pilipinas players celebrate after being Australia again to claim the bronze medal in the AVC Challenge Cup 2024.

Alas Pilipinas players celebrate after being Australia again to claim the bronze medal in the AVC Challenge Cup 2024. –MARLO CUETO/

By Jia De Guzman’s standards, the latest success of the national women’s volleyball team could be the birthplace of a dream.

“We’re really hopeful, we’re looking forward to more preparations for the upcoming tournaments that we will play in because if we have played like this [with just two weeks of preparation], we just hope now we just keep improving and move up,” the Alas Pilipinas captain said on Wednesday.

De Guzman ran the Filipinos’ offense smoothly in the AVC Challenge Cup bronze medal game, keying a 25-23, 25-15, 25-7 sweep of Australia at Rizal Memorial Coliseum to plant the country on the podium.

It was the best finish by the Philippines in 63 years of participation in AVC tournaments and that milestone was forged out of modest expectations.

“[Winning the bronze medal] feels surreal. I think it’s going to take a while for it to sink in because we went to this game not expecting anything … and now we’re going home with a medal,” De Guzman explained.

“We only had a few days to prepare as a team. The maximum of having all the members was three days. But we wanted to learn in this tournament and improve and learn a lesson every game. And we took it because this tournament was a good learning opportunity,” she added.

Up next for Alas Pilipinas is the 2024 FIVB Volleyball Women’s Challenger Cup on July 4 to July 7 at Ninoy Aquino Stadium. The champion among the eight participating nations that includes Argentina and Puerto Rico will advance to the prestigious FIVB Volleyball Nations League.

Steady play

Before Wednesday’s bronze medal, the Philippine women’s volley squad had long struggled in the international scene.

The Philippine women’s volleyball squad ended its 1966 Asian Games campaign at fourth place, just a step away from reaching the medal stand. The country’s last gold in the Southeast Asian Games came in 1993 in Singapore.

Aside from De Guzman, the Philippines also benefited from the steady play of Angel Canino and Sisi Rondina in tearing down the towering Aussies in front of a loud home crowd. Middle blocker Thea Gagate and spiker Eya Laure also fueled Alas Pilipinas’ run.

Other team members included Fifi Sharma, Faith Nisperos, Vanie Gandler, Dawn Macandili, Jennifer Nierva, Julia Coronel, Arah Panique, Dell Palomata and Cherry Nunag.“I’m just blessed to be able to play with such talent from different generations, very talented coaches and [to have] the opportunity to be a leader of such a great team,’’ said De Guzman.

Alas Pilipinas swept its four games in Pool A to reach the semifinals—already the farthest the Philippine team entered in any AVC tournament—before losing to Kazakhstan in the knockout match, less than 24 hours ago.

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Canino finished with 14 points, Rondina added 13 while Laure and Gagate had 10 each.