After flag-bearer duty, Alyssa Valdez hopes to also bring honor to country with volleyball medal
PHNOM PENH—Alyssa Valdez has become a constant figure in the national women’s volleyball program for five Southeast Asian Games in a row.
Now, it would be nice for the Filipino volleyball celebrity to finally lead the team to a medal finish this time around.
“We’re always aiming to give honor and pride to our country not just by representing it, so I hope we can bring home a medal,” said Valdez, the country’s flag-bearer at the parade of nations during the opening ceremony of the 32nd Southeast Asian Games here.
The women’s volley squad has been spruced up with an entirely different lineup, except for a few holdovers from the previous team that landed fourth last year in the Hanoi, Vietnam edition of these games.
They went to Osaka, Japan last month for a two-week camp with SEAG veterans Jema Galanza, Dell Palomata, Kat Tolentino, Mylene Paat and Valdez spearheading the preparations under Brazilian head coach Jorge Souza de Brito.
“We’ve seen that the girls really worked hard during the training camp and even before the camp,” said Valdez, tapped as the nation’s flag-bearer during the 2015 Singapore SEA Games.
Bracketed in Group B with 2022 silver medalist Vietnam, host Cambodia and Singapore, the women’s team has been strengthened by the core of the Creamline Cool Smashers, including setter Jia Morado-De Guzman, hitters Michele Gumabao, Tots Carlos, Galanza, middle blocker Ced Domingo and Libero Kyla Atienza.
“I guess it’s a big responsibility to be back on court representing our country. That’s why I really tried to make it a point to double my efforts,” said Valdez after recovering from a recent knee injury that sidelined her in the all-Filipino conference of the Premiere Volleyball League.
Also joining the women’s team are middle blockers Cherry Nunag, Chay Troncoso and setter Gel Cayuna.
“I’m just really thankful for the trust of the coaches. It really feels different when you play for the country,” said Valdez, who led an all-female Filipino athlete parade during the opening rites at the Morodok Techo National Stadium that lasted over five hours.
“With that trust, we will give our all for a good fight this SEA Games,” added the Filipino star spiker.
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