Jau Umandal brushes aside pressure, hopes to display MVP form in SEA Games
MANILA, Philippines—Jau Umandal, the lone holdover from the Philippine men’s volleyball team that won the silver in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, shrugs off the pressure of leading a rebuilding squad in the 32nd SEA Games in Cambodia in May.
Umandal will be ushering in a new era as 12 of the 14-man team are first-timers in the biennial meet after the Philippine National Volleyball Federation removed coach Dante Alinsunurin from his post and several players like Marck Espejo, Bryan Bagunas, and Joshua Retamar have begged off.
Despite the tall order, Umandal remained defiant, promising to give his best and continue his sterling play coming off an MVP campaign in the Spikers’ Turf Open Conference.
“Ayoko lagyan ng pressure yung sarili ko. Gagawin ko lang yung best ko para sa team tutulong ako hanggat saan ko makakaya. Dadalhin ko itong [Spikers’ Turf] experience ‘to para sa SEA Games,” said Umandal, who led Cotabato to a silver medal finish in the Spikers’ Turf Finals.
(I don’t want to put pressure on myself. I will just do my best for my team and I will help them with all I can. I will bring this experience with me to the SEA Games.)
Umandal played off the bench in the 2019 SEA Games when the men’s volleyball team earned a historic podium berth. He got the starting role last year but they missed the podium and settled for fifth place in Hanoi, Vietnam.
The former University of Santo Tomas stalwart and Cignal libero Manuel Sumanguid are the remaining members of the national team last year, as Mark Alfafara, who was part of the 2019 team, is already part of the coach Sergio Veloso’s coaching staff as a trainer.
Umandal hopes to make the most of their 15-day Japan training camp starting on Easter Sunday in Osaka.
“We still have time. We will go to Japan to learn more skills and improve our communication as a team so we can bring it to Cambodia,” Umandal said in Filipino.
“We didn’t have the chance to train completely here in the Philippines because of the Spikers’ Turf but coach Sergio is really focused and he always makes his presence felt in teaching the team,” he added.
National team assistant coach Odjie Mamon agreed with Umandal.
“Coach Sergio Veloso’s new system is good for the team because we have tall players,” Mamon said in Filipino.
Umandal is leading a team composed of skipper Vince Mangulabnan, Sumanguid, Filipino-American recruits Steve Rotter, Cyrus De Guzman, and Michael Vicente as well as SEA Games first-timers Jade Disquitado, Lloyd Josafat, Jay Rack De La Noche, Kim Dayandante, Vince Patrick Lorenzo, Jayvee Sumagaysay, Rwenzmel Taguibolos, and Leo Ordiales.
The Philippine men’s volleyball squad was recently left out of the SEA Games draw due to a clerical oversight, which led to a late or no entry of the team members’ names.
But the Philippine Olympic Committee has already settled the error and the Cambodia SEA Games Organizing Committee expressed its support to include the men’s team and hold a re-draw.
After their training camp in Osaka which includes a series of tune-up games with the Panasonic Panthers, Umandal will try his luck in the Korean V-League on April 25 in Jeju Island before leading the national team in Cambodia.