The Philippine National Volleyball Federation has announced its final 14-man roster for the upcoming 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia, and among them is Jau Umandal, the only remaining player from the 2019 silver medalist team.
As the de facto leader of the team, Umandal is expected to carry the weight of leading his teammates to a podium finish, but the newly-minted 2023 Spikers' Turf Open Conference MVP is not letting that pressure get to him.
"I really don't want to put pressure on myself. I will just do my best for the team and help as much as I can," said Umandal, who graduated from University of Santo Tomas.
Umandal acknowledged that winning the MVP plum in the Spikers' Turf will surely boost his confidence when it comes to the international scene, but he is determined to take it one game at a time and give his best for the team.
"I will bring this experience to the SEA Games even if it's still far away, we still have Japan. We will take the opportunity to improve our communication as a team so we can bring it with us," he said.
The national team will hold a 15-day training camp in Japan after the Holy Week from April 9 to 24, according to Umandal. Joining Umandal in the team are his AMC-Cotabato teammates Vince Mangulabnan, Vince Lorenzo, Lloyd Josafat, Kim Dayandante, and Jayvee Sumagaysay. Also in the squad are Filipino-Americans Steven Rotter, Cyrus De Guzman, and Michael Vicente as well as NU's Rwenzmel Taguibolos and Leo Ordiales, Cignal's Manuel Sumangguid, Iloilo's Jade Disquitado, and University of Santo Tomas' Jay Rack Dela Noche.
Right after the training camp, Umandal will head straight to South Korea for the Korean Volleyball League Asian quota tryout from April 25 to 27 at Jeju Gymnasium. He is looking to return to the volleyball scene abroad after a stint with Bani Jamra in Bahrain.
"This adds to my morale. Of course, when I go international, I have pride in myself, I carry my pride, and I bring it to other countries," said Umandal on his MVP award heading into the KVL tryouts.
Although he is full of pride and confidence, the 25-year-old Umandal is aware of the competition he's about to face, saying:
With Umandal leading the charge, the Philippine Men's Volleyball Team looks to return to the podium and bring home a medal in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games.