The Philippines women’s national volleyball team departed for Thailand on Tuesday to compete in the 22nd Asian Senior Women’s Volleyball Championship, carrying with them a morale boost from Hans Sy, the top executive of SM.
“I believe in you, I believe you can achieve really good results,” Sy, the chairman of SM Prime Holdings, conveyed to the national team during a send-off brunch held at the Conrad Hotel.
While addressing the team, which includes the core of the National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs and top collegiate players, Sy emphasized, “This is a competition, but it’s not about ‘win or lose.’ It’s truly about the experience you’ll gain and the momentum you’ll build.”
Joining Sy at the send-off were Philippine National Volleyball Federation President Ramon “Tats” Suzara, Secretary-General Donaldo Caringal, and Lady Bulldogs team manager Engineer Mariano “Bing” See Diet.
Coached by Brazilian Jorge Edson Souza de Brito, with NU’s Norman Miguel as the deputy, the team is led by University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 84 Rookie Most Valuable Player Alyssa Solomon, alongside NU standout Mhichaela Belen.
The roster also includes NU’s Natashza Bombita, Camille Lamina, Shaira Jardio, Minierva Maaya, Evangeline Alinsug, Erin Pangilinan, Pearl Denura, and Myrtle Escanlar, along with incoming rookies Arah Panique and Abegail Pono. They are joined by Lorene Toring from Adamson University and Nina Ytang from the University of the Philippines.
The Philippine National Volleyball Federation aims to transform this young team into a competitive squad by 2025, as part of the country’s aspiration to host the FIVB Women’s World Championships.
“I am looking forward to forming a dream team for 2025 in the world championships,” Suzara stated to the athletes.
“I will support that,” Sy assured the young athletes, suggesting that the world championships could be hosted at a world-class arena in SM Cebu.
According to Sy, this arena, currently under construction, is poised to exceed the standards of the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
“Besides the main court, there will also be a warm-up court,” Sy shared about the Cebu arena, designed to accommodate at least 15,000 spectators, much like the MOA Arena. “What we missed out on in the MOA Arena, we’re incorporating in Cebu.”
The Asian Volleyball Confederation tournament, set to take place at the Chartchai Hall of The Mall in Nakhon Ratchasima, promises intense competition. With the Philippines placed in Pool D alongside multiple-time champion China, Kazakhstan, and Hong Kong, the challenge is considerable.
Reigning champion Japan heads Pool B with India and Iran, Pool A features Australia, Thailand, and Mongolia, and Pool C is comprised of South Korea, Chinese Taipei, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.
The Philippines will play against Kazakhstan at 3 p.m. on the opening day Wednesday, China at 3 p.m. on Thursday, and Hong Kong at 12 noon on Friday. Saturday will be a rest day, followed by the semifinals and classification matches on Saturday, and the final on Monday.
To inspire the volleyball players, Sy imparted a principle maintained by his late father, Henry Sy, while building SM into the largest mall and department store chain in the country.
“Stay focused, be hungry, and stay humble,” Hans Sy advised. “Stay focused, believe in yourself. Stay focused on the game, forget about all other things—just concentrate on the game.
“Stay hungry, always be hungry to win. There’s no such thing as an easy win—no matter how wide the margin is, you have to be hungry. If you have these two, you’ll definitely win, and if you win, stay humble.”
Sy added: “That is actually the formula of SM. We’re No. 1. We understand that expectations are much higher, so we work harder. That’s why my father would always say, ‘In good times we work hard. In bad times we work harder.’”