Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, December 9, 2019

A huge step for Philippine men’s volleyball

A huge step for Philippine men’s volleyball
by rick olivares pic by arvin lim

There is no denying that despite the power game that characterizes men’s volleyball, it has taken a far backseat to women’s volleyball. Maybe because you’ve got dozens of pretty lasses playing the game and the long rallies make for roller coaster excitement. The men’s league – Spiker’s Turf is played to almost no fanfare and believe it or not – save for the finals – in non-air-conditioned setting (there isn’t much of a crowd to begin with).

But that could all change after that huge semi-finals win over defending Southeast Asian Games champion, Thailand, in five nerve wracking sets (17-25, 25-20, 23-25, 27-25, 17-15).

That win sent the Philippines in a finals encounter against Indonesia that defeated them in the group stage. Now the Filipinos have a chance for payback. If not, the lowest they can get is a silver medal. And this will make the best finish ever.

In the Philippines’ best ever showing in the biennial regional competition (3-1 thus far), there are already a lot of heroes and great stories. Then men’s volleyball team just crowded that storyline and list of heroes.

That tandem of Bryan Bagunas and Marck Espejo has really caused opponents problems with terrific contributions by Ave Joshua Retamar and Kim Malabunga. The rest of the roster is no slouch as head coach Dante Alinsunurin getting good performances out of Rex Intal, Ran Abdilla, and Ricky Marcos. 

The core of this team has won the last five UAAP men’s volleyball titles with players coming from National University and Ateneo de Manila University. They have two of the biggest names in the game in Bagunas and Espejo who has also played abroad (in Japan). 

The fact that Espejo and female wunderkind Alyssa Valdez (who has also played abroad in Thailand) and Jaja Santiago are breaking new ground says something about the local game. That it is getting better and we are starting to export players.

Imagine. In the Asean Basketball League (ABL), Filipino players are imports as well. And now, following football, we are seeing Filipinos go abroad to ply their trade. And that is good. This will inspire the young to know that there is a future in the sport.

And to think that the Philippine Men’s Volleyball Team isn’t done. There is a gold medal game to play. Who knows what will follow?

I can only look laterally. When the Azkals booked that historic semi-finals seat of the 2010 Suzuki Cup, one of the biggest beneficiaries of that was the old United Football League. 

Hopefully, after this, Spiker’s Turf attracts new crowds, attention, and media scrutiny. And maybe then, they can start playing in air-conditioned gyms.

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