A ROUGH 2021 Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) Club Championship campaign has given the Rebisco men’s national team lessons it hopes to take cue from moving forward. — AVC

THE Rebisco men’s national volleyball team remains winless in the ongoing 2021 Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) Club Championship in Thailand, but it has been competing while getting valuable lessons along the way.

Following their tough five-set loss to Thailand’s Diamond Food, 34-36, 26-25, 28-26, 19-25, 12-15, on Monday night, the nationals are now at 0-4, out of the running for a podium finish and relegated to the battle for ninth place in the 10-team field.

While not denying that it has been a rough stretch for it in Nakhon Ratchasima, the Philippine team, silver medalist in the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, is viewing the experience at the moment as more of a journey than a destination as far as its development goes, and that it is expecting to only get better moving ahead.

“This serves as a huge lesson for us all. We came here to compete and to learn, and exit the tournament with nothing, but all the lessons we can gain,” said team leading scorer Jao Umandal following their last game.

“This is the time for us to know our games better inside the court, and we will use this experience to further determine how we can improve ourselves,” he added.

For the team’s think tank, their record may not show it, but the players have shown steady improvement as the tournament progressed.

The AVC Club Championship is the first international tournament for the team since the 2019 SEA Games as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic greatly disrupted their calendar.

“We have been through a lot since 2019, we would have wanted our program to continue nonstop, but the pandemic spoiled all our plans. But with the results that we have seen since the first game, I am really content because the players did everything they can,” said national team coach Dante Alinsunurin.

“This is our first time stepping into a tournament of this scale… We truly have learned a lot,” he added.

Following three straight games where it was dominated by its opponents, the Rebisco team put itself in great position to break through against Diamond Food last time around.

After being edged out in a marathon opening set, 34-36, the Philippine squad bounced back with two quality dig-deep wins, 26-25 and 28-26, in the next two sets to move a set away from bagging its first win.

Unfortunately, it was not able to complete the task as the Thai club hung tough in the last two sets to complete the comeback, ending the match in two hours and 55 minutes.

Mr. Umandal came through with 26 points in the gallant stand, with Mark Alfafara adding 23 points and skipper John Vic de Guzman 16.

“We know we could have won, it’s just we had some lapses at the end game. In the fourth set, our intensity went down because we were so excited after taking a 2-1 lead. But when the fifth set came, we started fresh and forgot about everything that happened in the first and fourth sets. I still believe we did our best to perform and try to win,” said Mr. Umandal in his assessment of their performance.

Rebisco plays fellow winless team CEB of Sri Lanka in the ninth-place game on Wednesday.

The national team was assembled by the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF), which is using the continental club competition as part of its plans to shore up its national team program.

The team’s campaign is being supported by Rebisco and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC). — Michael Angelo S. Murillo