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Gorayeb shares thoughts on PH U23 team’s upcoming AVC campaign

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In just a few days, the Philippines will get its taste of international volleyball competition, as the Philippine U23 Women’s Volleyball Team will open its 2015 Asian U23 Women’s Volleyball Championship campaign this coming May 1 to 9, at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.

The road to this campaign was not a smooth ride with all the lineup changes and political problems experienced within the Philippine volleyball community, but when the roster’s final cut was released, there was no one happier than the national team’s head coach, Roger Gorayeb.

“Masaya naman kami kasi nakabuo na kami ng team,” PH U23 head coach, Roger Gorayeb, told Tiebreaker Times. “Finally naging 12 din kami after so many problems that visited us, so happy na kami.”

Also, Tiebreaker Times had the opportunity to ask a few questions to the veteran coach about his thoughts in the upcoming volleyball meet.

Strength through unpredictability

Shuffling left and right with a flurry of lineup changes before the final cut was released, the team has become nearly unpredictable in both a positive and negative sense. With majority of our Asian neighbors having little to no knowledge on our players, it certainly works to our advantage.

Even Gorayeb likes the country’s chances, despite the team’s unpredictable nature.

“Possible yun [unpredcitablity] kasi hindi nila kilala mga player [natin]. Ang hirap magpredict kung ano ang magiging outcome din namin, so I just asked the girls to play hard,” Gorayeb added. “Siyempre, naglalaro kasi kami at hindi namin alam ang chances namin. Hindi naman natin kilala ang mga kalaban natin, at hindi naman tayo nagpaparticipate sa mga international competition for a very long period of time.”

Being unpredictable certainly has its advantages as it causes confusion to any opponent that goes along way. Having little room for error against tough squads like Iran and Kazakhstan, Gorayeb will surely have the element of surprise hidden beneath his holster.

The height factorADMUvsUST-8774

Sports pundits always say that height is might.

A mere glimpse on our team will quickly lead to a conclusion that we are shorter compared to the average height displayed by the other national squads.

With middle blockers Jaja Santiago and Ria Meneses, the mere exceptions amongst our fairly petite volleybelles, the Philippines will have to rely on the likes of Ella De Jesus, Gretchel Soltones, and Jho Maraguinot to spell the likes of the country’s main offensive weapons in Alyssa Valdez, Myla Pablo, and EJ Laure.

“Mahirap kasi everybody is looking at us on how we play here,” Gorayeb added. “When we see other teams that are very much taller than us, baka mamaya ‘yung expectation nila na ganito ang laro natin baka mamaya madaming madissapoint.”

Being small has its shortcomings, but Gorayeb dismissed the notion that it will be our ultimate downfall. Rather than crying over spilled milk, Gorayeb said that each and everyone’s skill sets must be utilized to give the team a solid fighting chance.

“Mga pinili naman nating player is very capable of helping the team. Lahat naman iyon may kanya-kanyang skill,” he remarked. “Hindi naman ito magiging Alyssa team alone di ba? Selection naman ito so everybody is on equal footing na.”

A test of character

The abrupt rise to fame and the competitiveness of volleyball here in the country is a thing to admire, but setting afoot on international play is a whole different animal. The country is currently ranked 63rd in the FIVB world rankings.

Being positive more than ever, Gorayeb views our participation in the AVC not only as an acid test, but also a peek on how bright the future for volleyball is. The continuous rise of our level of play will surely go nowhere but up.

“This is the first time na sasali tayo uli sa international competition,” Gorayeb added. “So parang a test of how we will go for the next years to come. Makikita natin kung ano ang mga potential ng mga bata natin.”

With the prolonged absence from the international map, this is the toughest competition yet for our unsung band of volleyball players. They may have reached a lot of career-highs in the collegiate and semi-pro leagues here, but everything they have accomplished locally will eventually be tested to greater heights when facing the top-notch athletes from different countries.

“Of course kasi akala natin ang mga nakikita natin maglaro dito magagaling na. Ito ang level [ng play] natin dito sa Pilipinas pero when you talk about international competition talagang malalaki [ang difference],” Gorayeb explained. “When you look at Kazakhstan, ang lalaki niyan. When you talk about Iran akala nila maliliit pero malaki din iyan.”

After everything has been said and done, Gorayeb can only hope for his team to play their hearts out in the facing the giants.

“Basta kami we’ll just do our best and malay mo, hindi naman natin masabi, alam mo naman ang sabi natin mga Pinoy, bilog ang bola. We’ll just take any opportunity that will come on us then grab na namin,” he ended.

The Philippines is currently situated in Pool A in the tournament along with Asian powerhouses Iran and Kazakhstan. Their first game will be against Iran this coming May 1, 4:15 pm, while their second game will be against Kazakhstan this coming May 2, 2:30 pm. Both games will be played at the Philsports Arena, Pasig City.

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Mixed Martial Arts

Rene Catalan continues rampage with TKO win

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Rene Catalan continues to turn critics into believers

Filipino fighter Rene Catalan made his sixth appearance inside the ONE Championship cage at ONE: Kings of Courage held at the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia, Saturday evening. He faced 21-year-old Chinese athlete Peng Xue Wen in the opening main card bout, and leaned on his elite wushu to stop the young star at the 4:22 mark of the second round.

The victory improves Catalan’s record to 4-2 (1 NC), extends his winning streak to four, and gives him the first TKO stoppage of his martial arts career, as he bids to climb the strawweight ladder in search of the ONE Strawweight World Championship.

“The Challenger” came out in the southpaw stance to open the bout, throwing big hooks and a head kick that narrowly missed as he established the center of the cage from the start of the contest.

The Filipino landed a host of powerful strikes, including a perfectly-placed uppercut and a melee of punishing leg kicks, but Peng’s conditioning and composure kept him in the match as he looked to stand and trade with the man 18 years his elder.

Catalan picked up where he left off when the bout resumed in the second round, this time operating out of the orthodox stance, landing more leg kicks and continuing to deny Peng any space to work.

Despite his dominance on the feet, there was a brief moment of concern for the Filipino on the mat when he jumped into the Chinese wrestler’s guard mid-way through the second round, and immediately found himself in a triangle choke. But the Filipino kept his composure and managed to work himself free.

Once the bout returned to the feet, Catalan poured on the pressure in search of a finish, and he got it with just 38 seconds remaining in the stanza.

“The Challenger” scored big with a liver shot, then unloaded a fierce flurry of punches that forced Peng onto his back foot. Another shot forced Peng to the mat, where a salvo of ground and pound from Catalan eventually forced the TKO stoppage as referee Olivier Coste stepped in to halt the contest.

Photo, story, and video from ONE Championship

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Basketball

Gelo Alolino regrets Phoenix’s failure to close out Hotshots

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Photo by PBA Images

Gelo Alolino had his best game for Phoenix Fuel Masters Saturday night at the Cuneta Astrodome with 19 points, eclipsing his previous career-high of 16 markers which he made last May 21, 2017 in a loss to Mahindra Floodbuster.

But that achievement of his won’t be that memorable, as it went for naught following a 91-97 defeat they had absorbed into the hands of Paul Lee and Magnolia Hotshots, who have now collected their third straight victory.

For the second overall pick in the regular 2016 Rookie Draft, it was all because of their failure to sustain momentum up until the game’s final buzzer.

“Sayang, nandun na. We felt na sa amin na nung dulo kaso lang ganun talaga,” rued the 24-year-old sophomore after the match, where he shot an excellent 7-of-10 from the floor.

“Breaks of the game napunta sa kabila.”

Phoenix was there in contention all through out the match. In fact, they were even ahead, 89-84, with just three minutes left to play. But then, the Hotshots’ comebacking skills were unleashed, leading to the narrow win.

“Siyempre kami lahat nasayangan. Maganda naman yung team effort talaga namin,” expressed the 6-foot floor general of their end-game collapse, which wasted their efforts in assists (21) and on defense, where they forced Magnolia to 21 turnovers.

“Kami as players talagang gusto namin bumawi coming from a loss last game sa Rain or Shine.

The Fuel Masters have now lost their second straight outing and have dropped to 2-3. And for Alolino, all they have to do is learn as much as they can from this loss, especially now that they are about to face Barangay Ginebra next.

“Yun nga. Medyo masakit para sa’min ‘to,” admitted the National University product.

“All we have to do is magviview ulit kami ng tape para makita kung saan kami mas pwede mag-improve as a team and bawat isa — including me.”

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Basketball

Glenn Khobuntin repays Ricky Dandan’s trust with end-game heroics

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FILE Photo from PBA Images

Glenn Khobuntin can finally say that he had himself a moment in the pro ranks

The National University alumnus proved his worth for Kia Picanto, scoring his team’s final six points to steer the often-ridiculed club to its’ first win after a historic 16-game skid at the expense of Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 98-94.

“I knew he would. I knew he would,” lauded Kia head coach Ricky Dandan of the takeover the six-foot-four forward made.

“It was a blessing he didn’t play for the first two quarters because he [came in] fresh at gigil na gigil.”

Khobuntin finished with 11 markers on 5-of-7 shooting — the best game he’s had so far not because of the numbers he posted but with the way he made it. But the three-year pro does not want to take the spotlight all by himself.

“Hindi lang din naman ako e, kami ding lahat e,” the 26-year-old shared. “Siguro kumbaga nagka-opportunity lang, napunta sa akin yung bola kasi yun yung nasa scheme ng play so ayun.

“Thankful lang ako na-hit ko yung mga na-design na plays.”

However, the third-year pro admitted that he got frightened during the game’s final stretch, as Rain or Shine managed to impose a serious threat by coming back from a seven-point deficit, 94-96, with just less than 22 ticks left to play.

“Kinakabahan ako kasi two minutes pa rin yun e tapos Rain or Shine yung kalaban namin,” the native of Cagayan de Oro said. “Nakita ko nakakabalik sila. Thankful lang naman ako na yung game napunta sa amin, at least natapos yung losing streak namin.”

But more than the end of their months-long slump, what Khobuntin is grateful for is the trust given to him by Dandan, who fielded him as a starter in the second half after sitting out the entirety of the first 24 minutes.

“Nag-decide siya na ako yung i-start niya so thankful ako kasi nagtiwala siya sa akin.”

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ABL

Justin Brownlee, Alab lock down Knights for fifth win

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Paying a visit to Indonesia for the first time this season, Tanduay Alab Pilipinas needed time to figure the CLS Knights out before stifling the hosts in the final frame to take a 92-87 road win, Saturday evening at the GOR CLS Kertajaya in Indonesia.

This is Alab’s second straight win after losing to the Singapore Slingers last January 10.

With the win, the Philippine-based club team lifts its slate to 5-4 for solo fourth. CLS, on the other hand, dropped to 1-7 — just half a game ahead of the cellar-dwelling Formosa Dreamers.

Justin Brownlee displayed his all-around brilliance in the game, leading Alab with 36 points on 15-for-24 shooting to go along with eight rebounds, seven assists, and three steals.

Alab’s bench however could not sustain the effort of the starters that led to them clinging to a two-point lead with 7:06 remaining.

Needing a sparkplug, 40-year-old sniper Dondon Hontiveros provided the spark for Alab, knocking down a triple that proved to be the starting point 14-2 Alab run. A jumper by Bobby Ray Parks Jr. with 2:57 left capped the rally and gave Alab an 87-73 lead.

Hontiveros scored five of the eight Alab bench points. Fortunately for Alab, Renaldo Balkman and Bobby Ray Parks Jr. were on-point with the former tallying a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds while Alab’s skipper had 14 points, four assists, two rebounds, two steals, and two blocks.

Coach Jimmy Alapag fielded his bench afterwards that resulted to the quintet of Brian Williams, Mario Wuysang, Arif Hidayat, Decorey Jones, and Sandy Kurniawan to slice the lead to as low as four points. Free throws by Oping Sumalinog with eight ticks left put CLS away for good.

Williams paced CLS with 22 points and 14 rebounds while Kurniawan added 19 markers. Indonesian legend Wuysang had 17 points and six rebounds in the loss.

Alab ends its road trip on Sunday, January 28 when they take on the Saigon Heat at the CIS Arena in Ho Chi Minh City.

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