As 2018 winds down, we look back at the headlines that shaped the sport this year. These are the stories that made us our jaw drop in amazement or shed a tear due to pride. There may never be happy endings all the time. But these events made us feel better as a fan or as a citizen of this great nation. Thus, we list down the top 10 stories that defined Philippine volleyball. These are in no particular order.
Bundit hops out of coaching post
It came out of left field. Tai Bundit announced his resignation as Creamline Cool Smashers head coach days before the PVL Open Conference 2018 Finals. That transformed the team’s recent championship into a fitting send-off for the tactician that came from obscurity to prominence.
As the word “Tai” means rabbit in the Thai language, Bundit lept into the hearts of Filipino volleyball fans with his Heartstrong mantra that is personified in his dance celebrations and short instructions. Away from the public eye though, this philosophy would entail exhaustive physical training from his players that would often results to complaints or fights. Call it Spartan-like but it does yield results. In fact, all but two of the individual award winners during the last PVL conference was either currently or once under his tutelage.
He made the Lady Eagles soar
Bundit was welcomed into the Ateneo volleyball family in 2013 after the resignation of Coach Roger Gorayeb. The pressure for Bundit is at an all-time high for the Lady Eagles just came off a Finals loss to the De La Salle University Lady Spikers despite having promising players like Alyssa Valdez, Jia Morado, Amy Ahomiro, and Denden Lazaro. They would make it to the playoffs of UAAP Season 76. But De La Salle swept the double-round eliminations to force a stepladder Final Four.
The merciless training and uncanny mentoring paid off as the Lady Eagles won three do-or-die games against Adamson and National University to force a rematch with their fiercest rival. Winning against De La Salle once was tough enough. But Bundit and the Lady Eagles soared to the summit of Philippine collegiate volleyball by defeating the Lady Spikers thrice in four games. The tough journey that came with the title endeared Bundit to many volleyball followers. This love story remains ablaze to this day for Ateneo remains one of the more popular volleyball teams regardless of league.
The Thai mentor willed them to a perfect season the following year en route to a second consecutive title. Bundit went on to man the Ateneo sidelines for three more years while adding two second-place finishes.
Sweet success with Creamline
Coach Bundit has been the head coach of the Creamline Cool Smashers ever since its inception in 2017. The first year saw him steer the franchise to two third-place finishes. Those results were easily trampled by the PVL Reinforced and Open Conference titles that they won this year. Bundit implemented the same physical training he had with Ateneo and he couldn’t have better advocates for it than Valdez and Morado.
The good vibes of winning the Open Conference crown turned into tribute as every player in the Creamline roster paid homage to their mentor. As Bundit leaves his Cool Smashers family, he gets to spend more time with his wife, his 13-year-old son, and his twin eight-year-old daughters.
Mentor, trainer, father
The system that Tai Bundit implemented with Ateneo and Creamline gave rise to some of the best volleyball players our country has right now. While the language barrier proved to be a concern, the silverware he has collected is proof that it’s not. Indeed, he has helped shape Philippine volleyball into what it is now. His ability to push talented players to excel even more became the backbone of his success
He might not be barking instructions from the bench for now and there is no certainty that he will be back coaching in the Philippines. But it can’t be denied that his impact in the sport will continually to reverb for years to come, especially when more of his players start to don the colors of the country for international competitions.