Brazilian coach, Fil-American recruits bolster Philippine men’s volleyball team

Philippine men’s volleyball team with its new coach and newest recruits. –LANCE AGCAOILI

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine men’s volleyball team named Brazilian tactician Sergio Veloso as the new head coach and unveiled three Filipino-American players ahead of the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in May in Cambodia.

The PNVF on Saturday announced that Veloso, a Fivb consultant, will take over the men’s national team program but  he will still work hand in hand with coach Odjie Mamon.

“I am so happy. It’s the first time I’ve been to the Philippines and I’m excited about this opportunity. I work as a coach for 30 years,”  said Veloso during a press conference at Golden Bay Fresh Seafood restaurant. “This opportunity to improve and help the Philippine volleyball is part of the program of the international volleyball federation.”

PNVF president Tats Suzara also introduced three players from the United States, who will reinforce the national team.

Steven Rotter, who is already playing for Cotabato in Spikers’ Turf, the 6-foot-6 middle blocker Cyrus De Guzman, and 6-foot-2 outside hitter Michael Vicente will lead the Philippines in the SEA Games.

“My biggest contribution will be height. I understand that we are sometimes lacking height in our pins, sometimes in our middles. I just want to be a force to be reckoned with big block. That’s what I want to bring to the table,” said Rotter during the press con.

“I’m having a blast. It’s my first time leaving the United States and being on my own. I don’t have anyone to rely on aside from myself and my teammates, my coaches. We’re still trying to figure out what to do in our downtime,” he added.

Vicente and De Guzman said they are still getting to know their teammates bannered by pool members Jayvee Sumagaysay, Jau Umandal, and Rex Intal.

“We’re getting to know the guys. Our chemistry, us three, we’re playing a lot of high-level volleyball in California. Our chemistry in the tryouts was we can play with each other even if we’ve never been with each other,” said Vicente. “Connecting with the guys has been sometimes challenging but we’re picking it up pretty easy.”

De Guzman, who played for Hunter College in NCAA Division III, said they are still getting used to the Philippine style of volleyball.

“Especially in the national team, I just noticed the setting is a lot faster. These guys adjusted really well to the setting. And also way more on floor defense,” he said.

The three players made it through the tryouts in California organized by Fil-Am Nation founder Cris Gopez and helped them acquire Philippine passports.

“I’ve been helping the Philippines to facilitate a lot of big talent all over the world. We’re here to identify Filipino talent in all sports. Our goal is to help produce many Philippines passports,” Gopez said.

The men’s volleyball team will train in Japan before the SEA Games, where it tries to rise from a fifth-place finish last year in Hanoi, Vietnam last year.


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