Jau Umandal is officially the only member left from the 30th Southeast Asian Games silver medalist team that will be in the country’s lineup for the 32nd edition of the biennial meet come May in Cambodia.
The Philippine National Volleyball Federation announced the final 14-man composition of the team that looks to return to the podium after a fifth-place finish in the 31st edition of the regional games on Sunday.
With Umandal the last of that historic 2019 squad, he is the de facto leader of the team.
But for the newly-minted 2023 Spikers’ Turf Open Conference MVP, he’s not letting that fact add pressure to his role come May.
He, however, admitted that winning the MVP plum in the Spikers’ Turf will surely boost his confidence when it comes to the international scene.
“Ayaw kong lagyan talaga ng pressure yung sarili ko eh. Gagawin ko lang yung best ko para sa team, tutulong ako hangga’t saan ko makakaya,” said Umandal, a product of University of Santo Tomas.
“Dadalhin ko itong experience na ito para sa SEA Games kahit malayo pa, may Japan pa kami. Kukuha pa kami doon ng communication talaga sa team namin para madala namin.”
The national team will hold a 15-day training camp in Japan after the Holy Week from April 9 to 24, according to Umandal.
Joining Umandal in the team are AMC-Cotabato teammates Vince Mangulabnan, Vince Lorenzo, Lloyd Josafat, Kim Dayandante, and Jayvee Sumagaysay.
Also in the squad are Filipino-Americans Steven Rotter, Cyrus De Guzman, and Michael Vicente as well as NU’s Rwenzmel Taguibolos and Leo Ordiales, Cignal’s Manuel Sumangguid, Iloilo’s Jade Disquitado, and University of Santo Tomas’ Jay Rack Dela Noche.
Right after the camp is another challenge for the 6-foot-2 outside spiker. He heads straight to South Korea for the Korean Volleyball League Asian quota tryout from April 25 to 27 at Jeju Gymnasium.
Umandal is looking to return to the volleyball scene abroad after a stint with Bani Jamra in Bahrain.
Other men’s players from the Philippines in the 32-man tryout will be Spikers’ Turf recent Finals MVP Marck Espejo, league Best Libero Manuel Sumangguid, and league Best Middle Blocker JP Bugaoan.
“Dagdag morale ito. Siyempre pagdating ko ng international, may pride ako sa sarili ko, may dinadala akong pride, may madadala ako sa ibang bansa,” said Umandal on his MVP award heading into the KVL tryouts.
Although full of pride and confidence, the 25-year-old Umandal is aware of the competition he’s about to face.
“Syempre yung mga caliber players ng ibang bansa yung mga dadalo eh. May pressure pero masaya kasi isa ako sa mga naimbitahan sa ibang bansa. Kumbaga pride ko rin para sa sarili ko talagang kailangan paghandaan.”