Down by a set, and with Army up by a huge margin in the second set, Champion Infinity wanted to call timeout. Unfortunately, they had none left. Dejected by the situation, Champion Infinity team captain, Rocky Honrade had a few choice words with the referees. With his hands in his pocket, the first referee looked like he wanted to pull a card on Honrade, but he reluctantly put his whistle in his mouth and just let the play continue.
I’m not entirely sure, but the referee may have just been intimidated into letting Rocky do his thing. Standing at 6-foot-4 and with arms the size similar to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s, Rocky Honrade has always made his presence known inside the volleyball court.
Honrade led a run that would cut Army’s deficit down in that second set. They wound up dropping the frame, but Champion Infinity rattled off three consecutive sets of inspired volleyball to win the match. Rocky was the team’s emotional catalyst; Every time he scores a point, he would scream to the heavens with both arms fully flexed. When one of his teammates scored, he celebrated just as emphatically, and made sure all of his comrades celebrated with him. If you didn’t feel like celebrating, he’d pull you into the celebration. Beyond his 11 points and impeccable blocking, Honrade provided his team with the intangibles – energy, leadership, and double fist pumps – never seen on stat sheets and regular game recaps, but just as pivotal in swinging games towards a team’s favor.
“I always tell my teammates that whatever happens, those are just challenges,” Honrade told Tiebreaker Times after the match. “Pag tayo ‘yung nagpabigay dun sa mga challenges, wala, tayo ‘yung matatalo. Ganoon tayong mga Pilipino ‘di ba? The more na mahirapan tayo, the more na umaangat ‘yung kagustahan natin maka-angat.”
Before their win over Army, Champion had just come off a heartbreaking loss against the heavily-favored, Cagayan Valley Rising Suns. They were on the verge of taking the match as they were up two sets to none, but Cagayan managed to pull themselves all the way back up. Having the script flipped on them right into their next game, Honrade was happy with how his team handled the adversity.
“Ang maganda dito [game against Army] nakita sa amin ‘yung tulungan. This second time around, nakita namin kung ano talaga ‘yung meaning ng team. Last game [against Cagayan], masyado kaming naniwala sa sarili namin na porque’t nanalo kami ng two sets, panalo na. ‘Di kami nagadjust ng laro sa pagtaas ng laro ng Cagayan. Ngayon kahit nag-slow start kami, nakita ng mga bago kung paano lumaban. Masaya din kami kasi ‘yung coach namin, ‘di kami sinukuan,” Honrade added.
Even though their team’s recent win greatly boosted their morale, Honrade admits that his team still has a long list of challenges to overcome.
“Marami pang bago sa team. Magkakakilala pa kami with more trainings and games,” Honrade quipped. “Ako especially, coming from dalawang injury. I sprained my left and right ankle. Pero sabi ko sa sarili ko, ‘sprain lang yan, malayo sa bituka. Kahit nasaktan na ako, lalaban pa rin.'”
When asked about their upcoming game against Air Force, Honrade had nothing but winning against them on his mind. “Our preparation for Air Force is going to be number one, talunin sila. Isa sila sa mga veteran team. So kami, ‘di kami titigil, training lang kami. Kahit sobrang hirap, walang titigil, tuluy-tuloy lang kami.”