July 27, 2023

Bagunas, Espejo lead charge for PMNVT in SEA VLeague

The excitement is palpable as the Philippine Men's National Volleyball Team gears up for the second leg of the inaugural Southeast Asia (SEA) Volleyball League, and their spirits are even higher with the return of seasoned aces Bryan Bagunas and Marck Espejo. These two top spikers will be reuniting on the V.League stage, forming a lethal troika with Cotabato's rising star, Steven Rotter, who impressed everyone with his Best Opposite Spiker honors in the first leg held in Jakarta just last week.

The anticipation for the games at the City of Santa Rosa Multi-Purpose Complex in Laguna is growing, and the addition of Bagunas and Espejo has given the national team a renewed sense of strength and determination. With their experience and skills, the two veterans are expected to elevate the team's performance and contribute significantly on and off the court.

National men’s team head coach, Sergio Veloso, expressed his confidence in the squad, stating, “They’re experienced players. They’re smart. They can share their experiences with others. We can do a better job. I feel we can play better now.”

The roster also includes talented players from different teams, such as Cignal's Joshua Umandal, Manuel Sumanguid, Chu Njigha, and Lloyd Josafat; Cotabato's Rex Intal, Edward Camposano, and Vince Lorenzo; and Imus' Kim Malabunga. Completing the squad are Arellano University's Adrian Villados, Vince Mangulabnan, and free agent Ryan Ka.

The Philippine team is set to face off against Thailand at 7 p.m. in the main event, following the opening match between Vietnam and Indonesia at 4 p.m. The stage is set for an intense showdown between the SEA neighbors, and the Filipino spikers are eager to prove themselves on their home turf.

The SEA VLeague, presented by PLDT and supported by the City of Santa Rosa, Philippine Olympic Committee, Philippine Sports Commission, One Sports, and Cignal, is the brainchild of PNVF president Tats Suzara and Thailand federation president Shanrit Wongprasert. This league not only showcases top-level volleyball talent from Southeast Asia but also holds a higher significance.

Suzara explained, "This tournament is very important for Southeast Asia as we, the Philippines along with Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia, are bidding to host the 2025 Volleyball Women’s World Championship."

The Philippines had a tough run in the first leg, notching three hard-fought games in Jakarta, though they fell short of securing a win. Nevertheless, their resilient performance in their last match against Vietnam, where they held a 2-0 lead before narrowly losing in a five-setter, showcased their potential.

In the first leg, Indonesia emerged as the champion, led by MVP Fahry Septian Putratama, with Thailand and Vietnam completing the podium. However, back on their home ground, the Philippine spikers are determined to secure a breakthrough.

Coach Veloso summed up the team's goal succinctly, saying, "It’s a competition, so our target is victory."