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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.”

Tiebreaker Times A Filipino Dream: Tony Koyfman's unlikely story

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.

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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