Play For Better Days

Beyond competition and awards, some of the best beach volleyball stars in the world gathered in the Philippines for a good cause.

Cover Image: The Philippines’ Charo Soriano, paired with Alexa Micek, competed against some of the world’s finest at the Spike For Peace Beach Volleyball tournament. (sports.inquirer.net)

The footprints they left on the sand are for the benefit of the land. Fourteen teams, eleven countries, three hundred cubic meters of fine sand – all for a tournament set for a noble cause, the International Invitational Beach Volleyball Exhibition named “Spike For Peace.”

A country known for its world-class beaches and a seemingly never-ending summer weather, the Philippines makes a perfect host for the global competition. Philippine Sports Comission Chairman Richie Garcia said that 10,000 sacks of cream-colored fine sand were transported to cover an indoor court at the PhilSports Arena.

“This is a novelty because this will be held indoors,” said Garcia. “It will be exciting to see it played indoors. Regardless if it rains or shines, our matches will continue.”

The six-day event that ran from November 29 to December 3, 2015 was participated by some of the world’s best volleyball talents such as Becchara Palmer and Sarah Bettaglene of Australia, Karin Lundqvist and Anne-Lie Rinisland of Sweden, Akiko Hasegawa and Uchida Ayumi of Japan, and Emily Stockman and Amanda Dowdy of the United States, among others.

“Spike For Peace’ is sanctioned by the POC, LVPI, Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) and the FIVB (International Federation of Volleyball),” said Garcia. “It’s a much-talked-about event internationally as some very exciting players are coming.”

As host, the Philippines were allowed to have two teams: the pair of Shakey’s V-League stars Alexa Micek and Charo Soriano, and Philippine SuperLiga tandem of Danika Gendruali and Norie Diaz, both coached by Oliver Almadro.

Facing against world-class competition with many of them vying for slots to the Rio Olympics, the Philippines got the exposure and experience needed to prepare them for the global stage. At the end of the tournament, Hasegawa and Kusano of Japan brought home the Gold, Lundqvist and Rinisland of Sweden took the Silver, and Juliana Dhita and Dini Jasita Utami Putu of Indonesia earned Bronze honors.

Beyond the competition and the intensity of each game, the tournament was a rousing success – showing that sport can do more than bring countries together, but also bring out the best in them. Being able to host such an event can only be a positive indication that the future for beach volleyball in the Philippines is bright.

“If we continue to work hard with focus, we’ll be competitive in both the Southeast Asian and Asian Games,” said PSC consultant Eric LeCain. “Our goal is the 2020 Olympics. At the recent Olympic qualifying for men’s beach volleyball, we beat New Zealand which is a regional powerhouse. I think we won’t only be ready to play at the next Olympic qualifying but we’ll be ready to win. Right now, we’re ranked No. 16 or 17 in Asia when before, we were down to No. 120.”

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