Preparation and commitment earn national title for sepaktakraw team

January 27, 2013

It was a cardiac moment in the finals showdown between the University of the Cordilleras (UC) Sepaktakraw team against top seed and defending champion Puerto Princesa City Palawan.

The first and second set of the championship match in The Marathon Sepaktakraw Philippines National Open at the PSC Gym, Philsports Ultra in Pasig City last October 25 to 28, 2012 was dead even with Puerto Princesa taking the first set at 10-15. UC returned the favor in the second set with a matching 15-10 card that tied the game with one winning set each.

The coach of the UC Sepaktakraw team Antonio D. Aquision said the UC players at the start had to shake off the jitters of being the challenger and underdog coming into the final round.

However, it was a different scenario altogether in the deciding third set. "We were able to gain confidence and momentum so that the UC team started hitting high percentage shots," coach Aquision said. "The opposition was not able to return our spikes and volleys in the second and third sets," he added.

The UC team was able to stem the rally of team Puerto Princesa to wrest the lead in the third set 15-13, and eventually bring home the 2012 Sepaktakraw Philippines National Open Championship title.

UC's dean of student affairs Engr. Aloysius C. Mapalo who accompanied the team during the series, said the UC's team's performance impressed the tournament organizers - Sepaktakraw Referees Association of the Philippines and the Philippine Amateur Sepaktakraw Association - so much that they requested the UC team to play a one-set exhibition game against the Philippine sepaktakraw national players.

Dean Mapalo reports that the game almost resulted in an upset against the national team with UC knocking at the doors of the nationals with a 13-15 final count.

Coach Aquision said the UC team's preparations in the national open required that each member had a healthy respect for the opposition. He said it helped that in prior competitions they were able to match up against Puerto Princesa. He said the last time UC and Puerto Princesa faced each other was in 2009 at the Philippine Olympic Festival in Cagayan de Oro.

The UC Sepaktakraw team has been lording over the Baguio Benguet Educational Athletic League (BBEAL) with 16 championship trophies tucked in their belt. Aquision who assumed coaching chores for UC in 2007 said there is no secret to the team's training except the member's full commitment to training and practices, he said.

"The training regimen is always to review basic as well as advanced skills," Aquision said. He explained that the focus on basic skills is "ball control," inasmuch as the game involves ball coordination using the foot, knee and head. Advanced skills, he said, consist of spiking, serving and blocking.

The UC coach said these are the fundamental ability that they look for in potential players. As they manifest their proficiency, roles are eventually assigned as to who will occupy key positions in the players' quadrant: server, left inside player and right inside player.

Aquision was a former high school football player in La Trinidad, Benguet, who shifted to sepaktakraw because he wanted to send himself to college and "it was the game that offered a varsity scholarship at that time." He was the Benguet State University's Athlete of the Year for sepaktakraw in 1996.

After completing an International Referee Course in 2004 he is today a national referee for sepaktakraw under the Philippine Amateur Sepaktakraw Association (PASTA). He said from time to time he gets invited to officiate games, or act as consultant in local or national meets.

Imar Capana, Bachelor of Science in Office Administration freshman at UC plays the position "tekong" or server in the UC Sepaktakraw Team. He said they were looking for a chink in the armor of Puerto Princesa in the first set of the finals game.

"We soon noticed a weakness in their spiker," Campana, one of the youngest in the team at 17 said. As "tekong," he devised a way to exploit the weakness of the opposing team by sending the ball to the other team's spiker who was unable to counter with accuracy. "That's when the game started to go the way of UC," he said. "When we finally gained momentum, we knew we were going to clinch the title."

Campana said this is his first time to play in a national competition as a college student. He is not a stranger to sepaktakraw, however. "I have been playing in team events since the fourth grade competing up to the Palarong Pambansa, until high school," he said.

The second in a brood of four, Campana whose father works as an underground mechanic at the Lepanto Mines, said he enjoys competing in national events because they are pitted against the best in the field. "As an athlete, I get better competing in national events because I mix it up with the best players," he said.

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