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MANILA – National men’s water polo coach Rey Galang is gunning for a podium finish as his charges take on past tormentor Indonesia at the start of the 30th SEA Games water polo competitions at the New Clark City Aquatic Center in Capas, Tarlac on Tuesday.
“Last time we placed fourth in the Malaysia SEA Games so now we’re aiming for a podium finish,” said Galang, whose wards tackle the Indonesians in the last match of a triple-header at 7 p.m.
The day opens with Singapore playing defending women’s champion Thailand at 10 a.m. while Malaysia faces Thailand in the other men’s match at 5 p.m.
The Filipino campaigners won once and lost three matches in the 2017 SEAG, including a 2-5 loss to Indonesia, which finished runner-up to perennial men’s water polo champion Singapore.
“But we already beat the Indonesians twice in international play this year so we are confident about our chances against them on Tuesday,” Galang, a former national player himself, noted.
He added that their stint in last month’s FINA Water Polo Challenger’s Cup in Singapore was a huge boost for his players.
The Filipino bets wound up fifth overall among the 10 teams that saw action in the competition and among their losses was a 7-11 decision to the Singaporeans in the group stage.
Galang admitted that Singapore, which is seeking to retain the championship for the 28th straight time, is still the team to beat and the two squads collide on Friday just before the opening ceremonies at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan the succeeding day.
The Filipinos earlier had a raging rivalry with the Singaporeans, winding up bridesmaids five times to the latter in previous SEAG battles, including a heartbreaking 5-6 setback to the mighty Sea Lions when the country last hosted the regional sports meet in 2005.
The bespectacled mentor stressed that given the single-round format of the five-team tournament “every game is a must-win for all the squads. We can ill-afford to relax against any of these teams.”
With only three teams including host Philippines, the women’s water polo competition will be a double-round series, with only the gold and silver to be awarded at the end of the event.
National women’s coach Aldo Tong is hoping that his team will secure one of them, considering that his squad is reinforced by Fil-Ams, bannered by twin siblings Haden Skye Alysabeth Bates and Kieran Scout Noelle Bates.
Alysabeth, a goalkeeper, and Scout, an attacker, are freshman varsity players at the University Redlands in Southern California, which is an NCAA Division school that plays in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“I believe this is the reason why one of the countries backed out once it learned we had Fil-Ams in the team,” Tong bared.
The PH women’s water polo team takes to the pool for the first time against Singapore on Wednesday. (PR)