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'Pandesal Boys' get win in final water polo game, defeat Malaysia

Waylon Galvez - Philstar.com
'Pandesal Boys' get win in final water polo game, defeat Malaysia
The Philippine water polo team celebrates after winning against Malaysia in the inaugural Singapore Water Polo Inter-Nation Cup 2022 at the OCBC Aquatic Center.
Lim Sin Thai

SINGAPORE – With pride on the line, the Philippine water polo team finally delivered a victory, clobbering Malaysia 19-6 in the final day of the inaugural Singapore Water Polo Inter-Nation Cup 2022 on Sunday at the OCBC Aquatic Center here.

Roy Cañete, the 41-year-old power driver and center forward of the national team, scored seven goals as he was named the Player of the Game and also the Top Scorer in the five-nation event with a total of 15 goals.

Aljon Salonga, Matthew Yu and Paolo Serrano each scored three goals for the Philippines, Romark Belo added two goals, and Mummar Alamara finished with a single goal. 

It was an aggressive national team on the offensive end as it made 30 attempts toward the goal and the Filipinos also converted four goals on extra player shots in nine attempts.

On the defensive side, the Nationals got another superb performance from veteran goalie Tani Gomez Jr., who had 11 blocked shots to Malaysia’s seven. The Philippines also had a total of 11 steals to its opponent’s seven. 

Although it was the first and only victory for the national team after losing the previous four, coach Rey Galang sees it as a positive development as they try to carry the momentum to their improvement moving forward.

“Actually at the start of the tournament we didn’t talk about winning a medal, or performing really well because we all understand that we just started training a few months ago (March) and we know this is a very tough tournament,” said Galang.

“This is part of our training in preparation for important tournaments like the Southeast Asian Games next year in Cambodia, and the Asian Games in China. We learned important lessons here and we’ll take these lessons as we progress.”

The tournament was considered a “SEA Games” high-level competition since defending gold medal winner Indonesia and host Singapore, bronze medalist when the country hosted the biennial meet in 2019, were participants.

The national team first lost to Indonesia (7-15), Singapore B (7-8), Thailand (6-15) and Singapore A (3-12). 

The national team earned a silver medal during the 2019 SEA Games — the first in 10 years — but due to the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns in the Philippines, the players, popularly known as the “Pandesal Boys” because of their chiseled bodies, weren’t able to train in nearly two years.

The trip here was made possible by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) courtesy of chairman Butch Ramirez, and Philippine Swimming Inc. (PSI), headed by its president Lailani Velasco. 

Dale Evangelista, a former national team stalwart and now an assistant coach, considers it a blessing for the players to participate here because the entire team — he said — is very thankful.

Evangelista said he hopes for a few more international exposures for the team before the 32nd SEA Games next year and the Asian Games.

“We’re still looking at options, of course the Thailand Open is a possibility for the national team. Another option is a training camp similar to what we had in Japan in 2019 before the SEA Games,” said Evangelista.

“That training camp, plus the tournaments we had prior to the SEA Games was important in the overall improvement of the players, the national team. We hope to get the same training in time for the Asian Games and the SEA Games in Cambodia next year.”

WATER POLO

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