MANILA, Philippines -- The members of the Philippine men's national volleyball team take their roles as inspirations to young players seriously, especially after their historic run in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games last December.
The team, bannered by former UAAP stars Marck Espejo and Bryan Bagunas, claimed a historic silver medal in the SEA Games last year. They took down regional powerhouse Thailand in the semifinals, before eventually bowing to Indonesia in the gold medal game.
Their achievement put a spotlight on the men's volleyball team, which has traditionally lagged behind the women's team in terms of attention and support. For Espejo, a five-time UAAP Most Valuable Player, it showed up-and-coming players that there is a future in the sport beyond the college game.
"Kami namang national team, parang nagiging instrument lang kami para sa younger generation na pagpursigehan pa 'yung volleyball, na may future rin sa volleyball," Espejo said during a recent appearance on "2OT."
"Hindi lang dahil No. 1 sport natin ang basketball, (pero) may future rin sa volleyball," he added.
Espejo and national team captain John Vic De Guzman noted that Spikers' Turf gives players an opportunity to play outside of their collegiate leagues, and the very best can even make it abroad.
"Siyempre 'yung mga nasa high school and collegiate, after noon siyempre meron silang inaayos pa, na pwedeng paglaruan at ayun nga 'yung Spikers' Turf," said Espejo.
"At ayun nga, dahil nabuksan namin ni Bryan 'yung pwede ka maglaro abroad, ayun meron din kaming goal na makapaglaro abroad," he added.
Espejo headed to Japan after he wrapped up his collegiate career with Ateneo de Manila University, and Bagunas followed suit last year after his last season with National University. After the SEA Games, Espejo played in Thailand as an import as well.
De Guzman, who played collegiate volleyball for De La Salle-College of St. Benilde, said the level of men's volleyball can only rise with Spikers' Turf.
"Nakikita mo na 'yung pag-angat ng level ng performance ng men's volleyball, dahil nai-inspire sila at nabibigyan ng chance 'yung iba na ma-expose sa public, na may ganoong klaseng talent pala tayo," he said.
"Hindi lang 'yung napapanood natin sa NCAA and UAAP, but 'yung mga players din na galing provinces na hindi nae-expose sa Manila."
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