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A Filipino Dream: Tony Koyfman’s unlikely story

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For generations, millions of people around the world have chased the American Dream – a promise that moving to the USA can change their lives. For its part, the United States has made true to this promise; the very fabric of the nation’s past and present standing is practically sown by the immigrants who braved oceans and plagues for a chance at a better life.

Most of us Pinoys have been raised on that dream because for many, finding a life out of the islands is the only to way survive. Rarely does anyone look to the Philippines and say that they’ll probably have a better shot here than in the States. But such is the case for Ateneo’s Anthony Koyfman.

Born from a Russian father and Columbian mother, Tony had a knack for playing the violin and rapid growth spurts. Attending Bayside High School in New York, Tony starred in the school’s volleyball team – an incredible feat since he had only picked up the sport a few years prior – while also excelling academically. By his Senior year, Koyfman had grown to a staggering 6 feet 7 inches and committed to attend Division I volleyball school, Belmont Abbey in North Carolina.

Unfortunately, the living expenses in New York and student fees caught up to Tony and he found himself 30,000 dollars in debt. Seeking to continue his education, Tony got some timely counsel from a Filipino friend who told him about the Philippines.

“I needed a new place to go. She told about me about the Philippines. And I decided to just get on a plane and just go for it,” Koyfman expressed, adding that his parents were apprehensive at first but eventually softened up to the idea.

Arriving last September, Koyfman immediately fell in love with the Philippines stating that everything about the culture here was a welcome contrast to everything he was used to in New York. “Life here is at a slower pace compared to that in New York. Plus it’s always warm here, I never have to worry about snow. It’s fantastic. And I also eat all the Filipino food. Everything’s masarap,” said Koyfman, who added that he got a bit of help with the Filipino culture and language when he participated in the Pinoy Amateur League in Connecticut.

Studying in Ateneo, Koyfman then decided to tryout for the Blue Eagles.

“Ang tangkad!” quipped Ateneo head coach, Oliver Almadro. “Blessing si Tony sa team. Kasi nga walk-in lang siya. Sino ba naman magaakala na makakakuha ka sa tryouts ng ganyang katangakad na may skill.”

ST-ADMU-VS-UP-Koyfman-attaccckkk

Debuting for the Blue Eagles in the ongoing Spikers’ Turf Collegiate Conference, Koyfman has made a difference for the defending UAAP champs in the limited minutes he receives. Koyfman is a towering presence at the net with a penchant for hitting high and hard. His jump serves are consistently devastating but Coach O says he still needs to get Tony playing a bit faster.

“The game here involves a lot longer rallies than what I’m used to,” Koyfman explains, comparing the Pinoy game to the much more powerful international style of play. “If you can imagine, in the States, the setter is my height and there a lot of good players competing for the few spots on the National Team.”

However, Koyfman admitted that his teammate, two-time UAAP MVP, Marck Espejo can definitely make it in the tough U.S. circuit. “I told Marck that had he played in the Division I, he would’ve definitely made a name for himself.”

In the long run, Koyfman hopes that he can be a great contributor in his short stint with the Blue Eagles. The 21-year old won’t be eligible to play in the UAAP until Season 79 and will only have two playing years. But Koyfman sees this as an opportunity to get most of his academic responsibilities out of the way so he can focus on playing when his time comes. “If anything, it’s an opportunity to get papers and such out of the way before I play in the UAAP.”

Tony will be a huge part of Ateneo’s bid to establish a volleyball dynasty. After Season 78, most of the Blue Eagles’ core, including middle blocker Rex Intal, will have exhausted their playing years. Getting Tony integrated to the system will be a huge task for coach Almadro.

Tony is aware of this as he witnessed Ateneo’s historic title run last season when they knocked the NU Bulldogs off their UAAP throne. “It was amazing to see. I wasn’t previously aware of just how big volleyball is here. Seeing that I was just in awe,” said Tony.

Koyfman has inspired curiosity from everyone who saw him watching Ateneo games last UAAP Season. Now finally able to suit up for Ateneo, Koyfman is keen to prove himself to the highly-critical, cutthroat volleyball community.

You can catch Tony and the rest of the Blue Eagles rampage through the comptetion in the Spikers’ Turf happening every Monday and Wednesday.

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Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball – from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado’s setting.

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1 Comment
  • a. kenneth

    koyfman is the man!

Football

Composed Ceres-Negros expels Shan United in shootout victory

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Photo from the-AFC.com

2017 AFC ASEAN Zone Champions Ceres-Negros banked on their poise and composure from the spot as they knocked out Myanmar’s Shan United via a 4-3 penalty shootout (1-1 after extra time) triumph, Tuesday evening at the Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar.

The Negrenses punched their ticket to Brisbane, Australia after emerging the better spotkick takers. Four Busmen were on target, while two of their Shan Warriors counterparts fluffed their lines.

The two domestic champions were inseparable after 120 minutes, with the hosts holding their own against the Philippine champions. Ceres-Negros looked the more dominant of the two teams. However, they couldn’t make the advantage count where it mattered, as they failed to breach the sturdy Shan United defense inside the first two regulation halves.

The visitors were visibly more comfortable in the first half, but with the scores staying level at the break, the less-fancied Myanmar champions eventually found their footing in the encounter. While there were several half-chances from either side to open the scoring, both defenses remained defiant en route to unwanted extra time.

“It was a tough game. We weren’t ready to play 120 minutes because we only had four training sessions before the game but everytime we wear this jersey, we represent Ceres, we represent Bacolod, we represent the Philippines, so we have to give our best,” Ceres’ defender Carli de Murga elaborated to the Inquirer after the match. The Asian Football season has yet to start, and with both teams not too busy with pre-season preparations, rust and fatigue in a demanding affair were evident.

Come extra time, Ceres-Negros took the initiative when Stephan Schröck’s deflected effort went past the helpless Thiha Si Thu just three minutes into the first half.

Nonetheless, the hosts refused to go down without a fight, and their resilience was rewarded later in the opening half. Substitute Patrick Asare found the back of the net to restore parity in Yangon.

Another 15 minutes of goalless action took place in the second half as both teams looked more cautious, perhaps with the collective aim of avoiding a costly error or two. Among all the chances, Schröck’s in the 114th minute may have proved to be the closest to changing the scores, as his attempt shaved the post.

Shan United took to the spot first, where Asare made his penalty attempt count. Nay Lin Tun also made his, but not before teammate Chizoba smashed his attempt over Toni Doblas’ goal.

While the hosts squandered a shot, the visitors remained calm in front of a hostile Myanmar crowd. De Murga, Schröck and Mike Ott nailed their turns, with Marañon also not missing a vital kick from 12 yards.

It set up William Biassi Nyakwe, the man credited with the own goal when he deflected Schröck’s opener, with the chance to prolong his team’s campaign in the AFC Champions League. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t atone for his earlier mistake, as his attempt soared high and wide — much to the delight of the visiting team from Bacolod, the Philippines.

The reward for Ceres-Negros is a trip to Queensland, Australia, where they will seek to do one better than compatriots Global-Cebu. The 2016 Philippine champions also played against the Brisbane Roar, who dealt them a staggering 6-0 hammering this time last year. The match will be held at the Suncorp Stadium on January 23.

As for Shan United, a spot in the AFC Cup Group Stage awaits them and they may not have seen the last of Ceres-Negros just yet. If the Negrenses lose to either Brisbane Roar or Tianjin Quanjian, they will be reacquainted with the Burmese champions in Group F.

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Basketball

Abu Tratter plans to work his way to 2023 by continuing to do ‘the dirty work’

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Abu Tratter may have missed the jersey-giving ceremony that the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas held for the 23 for 2023 cadets last Monday but he made sure to help out when the current batch needed him the most.

After helping the Marinerong Pilipino Skippers win the Sinulog Cup in Cebu a week ago, the 6-foot-7 Filipino-American did not hesitate to heed Gilas’ call, as they were undermanned for their second session in preparation for the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

“I think it’s just an honor to put on this jersey, to be able to represent our country, to possibly represent our country in the future. It’s an honor,” shared the Laguna-native.

The 25-year old, who just celebrated his birthday last January 9, admitted that he was in awe of the talent inside the Meralco Gym. Like a fan, he wanted to take a few photo ops with the senior team’s Gabe Norwood and June Mar Fajardo.

“Actually, at first I was just shocked to see June Mar and Gabe, just to be able to be in the midst of them,” gushed the former DLSU Green Archer, who will suit-up for Marinerong Pilipino in the D-League. “I even asked them for a picture, and hopefully they’ll still give me one.

“It’s just humbling, definitely.”

However, the work has only began for Tratter. With five years to go until the 2023 FIBA World Cup, the two-time UAAP champion plans to continue to do what he does best — be the same scrapper that he is and hopefully catch the eye of Gilas’ brass.

“I think just doing the dirty work, of course. Giving whatever the team needs, rebound or any steals, any thing a dirty player would need to pick up on,” he said.

“That’s how it is, garbage into gold. Get anything, sweep up anything and try to put it back.”

Moreover, he will continue answering the call when Gilas needs him, as he himself is learning a lot from being surrounded by the country’s topflight cagers.

“Whenever I can. I want to be able to absorb all the information coming from here and hopefully apply it in the D-League and hopefully apply it on future practices, future games.”

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2018 FIBA 3X3 World Cup

Terrence Romeo invited to join Pilipinas 3×3 for World Cup

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Stronger than ever

Scoring sensation Terrence Romeo has been invited by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas to join the Philippine team in the upcoming FIBA 3X3 World Cup, according to Philippine Star columnist Quinito Henson.

Romeo, who is currently out due to a right knee injury, has been in rehabilitation and is expected to miss the entire Philippine Cup campaign of the Globalport Batang Pier and the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

“Baka sa second conference na ko makabalik kasi talagang gusto ko malakas ako pagbalik ko,” the 25-year-old shared during Chooks-to-Go Live last January 2.

SBP Executive Director Sonny Barrios personally met with the 6-foot guard, inviting him to be part of the Philippine team.

Romeo has plenty of 3×3 basketball experience under his belt.

Back in 2014, Romeo was part of the Manila West 3×3 team during the Manila Masters. He was adjudged as the tournament Most Valuable Player.

The 2018 3X3 World Cup will take place from June 8-12 at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.

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NCAA

Red Spikers extinguish Blazers for second win

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Shaking off a forgettable outing against the Perpetual Help Altas last January 11, the San Beda College Red Spikers vented their ire on defending champions College of Saint Benilde Blazers in four sets, 25-15, 25-16, 23-25, 26-24, and claimed their second win of the season, Friday afternoon at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

“Sabi ng coaches kalimutan na yung talo,” shared captain Lorenze Santos of what transpired after that match.

So, in this game, the San Beda team poured on what they worked hard for to regain momentum. “Binuhos po namin lahat ng ginawa namin sa training [ngayon].”

After tight starts in all the first two sets, the Mendiola-based side pulled away to register the seemingly insurmountable 2-0 lead.

Nonetheless, summoning the heart of a champion and led by seniors Isaah Arda and Jethro Orian, the reigning champions pulled off gritty runs to snag the third set and making a tussle of the fourth.

Ultimately, Adrian Viray virtually ended the match with a vicious serve, which the Blazers failed to convert.

The prolific outside hitter finished with 17 points, 11 coming from attacks and five off blocks. Former skipper Mark Encino also registered 17 markers.

The Red Spikers (2-1) will face the Mapua University, also at 2-1, on Friday, January 19.

Orian was such a presence at the net, ending up with 20 points for the Taft-based squad.

The defending champions Blazers (2-1) will try to bounce back later that day against San Sebastian College (0-3).

The Scores:

SBC 3 – Viray 17, Enciso 17, Santos 11, Patenio 7, Amagan 7, Desuyo 3, Zabala 0, Genobaten 0, Manliclic 0, Casin L.

CSB 1 – Orian 20, Arda 18, Bacani 6, Basilan 4, Bautista 4, Magsino 2, Martinez 0, Garcia 0, San Miguel 0, Saldavia 0, Dy L.

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