The Philippine men’s volleyball team to the coming 30th Southeast Asian Games gets a baptism of fire when it competes in the Spikers’ Turf Reinforced Conference starting May 19 at the Paco Arena.

Although the coach Dante Alinsunurin-mentored national team will play only up to the elimination round, the players hope to get the much-needed exposure as they step up their preparations for the biennial event scheduled Nov. 30-Dec. 11 in Manila.

“The Spikers’ Turf is a perfect exposure for our national players. We’re looking forward to have them play in our league starting this weekend,” said Spikers’ Turf tournament director Mozzy Ravena during the 22nd “Usapang Sports” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) at the National Press Club in Intramuros.

Ravena said the entry of the national team is also expected to raise the level of excitement in the Spikers’ Turf, the first and only semi-pro men’s volleyball league in the country.

“We have more teams this conference — 12 teams to be exact. Mas masaya, mas exciting ngayon dahil kasama pa ang national team (It’s more exciting because national team is included),” added Ravena, who was accompanied by national team players Peter Torres and Rex Intal and Cignal HD official Von Reinhart Gaa in the weekly forum sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission, National Press Club, Pagcor, Community Basketball Association and HG Guyabano Tea Leaf Drink.

Ravena, however, clarified that national team members will have to rejoin and play for their mother teams once they play the national squad.

A former top volleyball player of University of Santo Tomas herself, Ravena said she is excited about the fast-growing popularity of men’s volleyball.

“This is what we’re doing with Spikers’ Turf now. Yun itaas pa yun level ng (Raising the level of) men’s volleyball. In fact, I have a lot of friends who watched men’s volleyball for the first time. And they realized ang saya pala manood dito (it’s fun to watch here),” he said.

Both Torres and Intal welcomed the opportunity to play for Cignal in the Spikers’ Turf as part of their preparations for the SEA Games.

The two players also noted the rise in popularity of men’s volleyball in recent years.

Iba pa din talaga yun men’s volleyball kumpara sa (men’s volleyball is different compared to) women’s volleyball. Expect intensity, power and speed in the Spikers’ Turf starting this Sunday,” said Torres.

Aside from Torres and Intal, the other players listed in the national pool to the SEA Games are Alnakran Abdilla, Mark Alfafara, Bryan Bagunas, Kim Dayandante, Johnvic de Guzman, Joven dela Vega, Marck Espejo, Fauzi Ismail, Jack Kalingking, Jessie Lopez, Jeffrey Malabanan, Kim Malabunga, Rikko Marmeto, Ricky Marcos, Ish Polovorosa, Francis Saura, Jayvee Sumagaysay and Joshua Umandal. (PR)

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