The Philippine men’s volleyball team faces Netherlands and China in a couple of friendly matches in preparation for the Asian Volleyball Confederation Challenge Cup for Men next month in Taiwan.
Taking advantage of the country’s hosting of Week 3 of the Volleyball Nations League, the Philippine National Volleyball Federation has arranged at least two tune-up games for the Filipino spikers against the visiting teams as part of their buildup for the Challenge Cup in Taipei that will run from 8 to 15 July.
The Nationals, led by returning Marck Espejo, will get a rare chance to test their mettle against World No. 12 Netherlands and World No. 25 China.
‘The Philippines can improve a lot when you stay near the top of the top high-level players.’
Both closed-door friendlies will be played either in Ninoy Aquino Stadium or in Rizal Memorial Coliseum.
Espejo, who skipped the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia, expressed excitement about playing against caliber players from top-ranked national squads.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to play against powerhouse countries. It will serve as a big exposure for us players,” the prized winger who is set to play in the Korean V-League said.
Espejo along with Bryan Bagunas, who were instrumental in the Philippines’ silver medal finish in the 2019 SEA Games, are in the 22-man national pool where the final roster for the Challenge Cup will be selected.
Bagunas, who led his club Win Streak to the Taiwan Top Volleyball League throne and was named Most Valuable Player, begged off from participating in the Phnom Penh SEA Games to prepare for his wedding.
Head coach Sergio Veloso is also looking forward to the friendlies not only to improve the skills of the team but to further solidify its chemistry and familiarity.
“The Philippines can improve a lot when you stay near the top of the top high-level players,” Veloso said.
“Our philosophy is to try to do your best, play at 110 percent. If the other team is at another level, it doesn’t matter. Try to do your best,” he added.
Espejo, who was picked third overall by the three-time KVL champion Incheon Korean Air Jumbos during the Asian Quota Draft, would like to temper expectations in the friendlies as the team’s goal is to learn and gain valuable experience against the Dutch and Chinese.
“We don’t really set a goal to win (against them). We just need to give our 100 percent every time and for coach to see us execute what he teaches us in practice,” the five-time University Athletic Association of the Philippines MVP said.
Aside from China and Netherlands, also flying in for VNL Week 3 scheduled 4 to 9 July at the SM Mall of Asia Arena are Japan, Poland, Italy, Slovenia, Brazil and Canada.