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PH water polo team hopes to end 10-year drought in SEA Games

WHILE its rivals teams from other countries remained consistent, the country’s men’s water polo national team has failed to get to the podium  in the Southeast Asian Games.

Water Polo national team coach Dale Evangelista takes as ‘groufie’ with the squad during one of their international tournaments in preparation for this year’s Southeast Asian Games here. The water polo team is set to leave for Hong Kong Tuesday for the Asia Pacific Water Polo Championships in Kawloon. (Dale Evangelista Facebook)

Water Polo national team coach Dale Evangelista takes as ‘groufie’ with the squad during one of their international tournaments in preparation for this year’s Southeast Asian Games here. The water polo team is set to leave for Hong Kong Tuesday for the Asia Pacific Water Polo Championships in Kawloon. (Dale Evangelista Facebook)

This could change this year.

Former national team member and current national team coach Dale Evangelista said Monday that there was already a marked improvement with the way the team is training since last year.

“We’ve done a lot of work in trying to improve in terms of training here and abroad,” Evangelista said after the team’s training at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Vito Cruz, Manila.

“I think the key in improving the team is we’ve focused on providing the best possible training here and giving them international tournaments, which we have done since last year.”

“The right exposure is very important for the team. It gives the players the experience and exposure to play against top level competition because we play not just the countries from Southeast Asia, but from Europe and the USA,” added Evangelista.

The country will stage the 30th SEA Games from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, and events in aquatics, including water polo, will be played at the Aquatic Center in New Clark City in Pampanga.

Interestingly for the men’s water polo team, the last time they had a podium finish was during the 2009 SEA Games in Laos. The team came short of winning a gold in the 2007 in Thailand and 2005 when the biennial meet was last staged in the Philippines.

Since then, the performance of PH water polo team has nosedived.

Two years ago in Kuala Lumpur, it only placed fourth overall.

“We’re hungry… I think that’s the biggest factor. It’s been 10 long years. We also want to make up for missing a podium finish in the last SEA Games by just one goal,” said Evangelista, one of the stars for the national teams that won silver medal in 1999, 2005, 2007 and 2009.

Roy Canete, one of the veteran players on the national team, said that SEAG defending champion Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia are also strong teams, but they ready to meet them in the event later this year.

“Of course, the games will be played there – in front of our countrymen, and we want to bring honor to our country,” said Canete.

“We expect a strong field but we’re aiming for a podium finish. If there is a chance for the gold medal, we’ll fight for it,” added Canete, a teammate of current coaches Rey Galang, Ricardo Dilapdilap and Evangelista.

As part of their training for the SEA Games, the men’s water polo team, with the support from the Philippine Sports Commission, leaves for Hong Kong Tuesday for the 2019 Asia Pacific Water Polo Championship in Kawloon Park.

A total of 16 teams – commercial teams and national teams – will see action in the event, including teams from China, Japan, Korea, the US and from Europe. The team is coming of a stint in Indonesia, and after the Hong Kong event, there are two more international events lines up for water polo.

Aside from Canete, other members of the team are Tani Gomez, Matthew Yu, McGyver Reyes, Adan Gonzales, Mark Valdez, Romarc Belo, Aljon Salonga, Vincent Sicat, Mummar Alamara, Mico Anota, Paolo Serano and Abnel Amelajid. (WAYLON GALVEZ)

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