By WAYLON GALVEZ
Games Thursday (OCBC Aquatic Centre, Singapore)
3 p.m. – Indonesia vs Hong Kong
4:30 p.m. – Philippines vs Malaysia
6 p.m. – Chinese Taipei vs India
7:30 p.m. – Zimbabwe vs Ireland
SINGAPORE –Filipino-American Vincent Sicat is proving his worth as a key contributor despite being new to the water polo national team competing in the FINA Water Polo Challengers’ Cup here.
The 21-year-old Sicat scored a goal in the team’s 12-8 defeat against Ireland at the beginning of the tournament last Tuesday, showing his potential at the wingman position.
Roy Cañete, the veteran wingman of the squad, said Sicat is adjusting well with the rest of the team.
“Maganda naman yung pinakikita niya. Nakaka-adjust na din siya sa plays,” Cañete said ahead of the team’s second game in the 10-nation event against Zimbabwe, which is being played at press time.
“From the time na nakasama namin siya sa Indonesia Open (July) and then doon sa Hong Kong Open (August), mapapansin naman yung naging adjustment niya sa plays ng team.”
The 5-foot-10 Sicat played three seasons with the Santa Clara Broncos, a Division 1 school in the US NCAA.
After finishing his mechanical engineering studies, Sicat tried out for a spot early this year and was accepted to the PH team under coaches Rey Galang and Dale Evangelista.
“The good thing about Vince is that he’s very hard working and is very dedicated,” Evangelista said, a veteran from 2001 to 2011 with three silver medals and a bronze in the Southeast Asian Games.
“Makikita mo naman kasi he really wants to represent the Philippine team. When he plays and even during practice session, focus talaga siya kagaya ng mga kasamahan niya sa national team,” he added.
Matthew Yu, a teammate of Sicat, said that another thing that he sees is the way the latter fit in not just to the system but the way he adjusted in terms of having chemistry with other players.
“Siyempre this is a team sport, importante na may chemistry. Siya, talagang may initiatives siya na kilalanin kaming teammates niya isa-isa. Kaya sa bonding moments, kasama na din siya sa kulitan,” said Yu, who – together with Mico Anota – used to be the youngest members of the team.
The tournament here is part of preparation for the national team for next month’s Southeast Asian Games the country is hosting for the fourth time, and first since the 2005 biennial meet. The Philippine Sports Commission and the Philippine Swimming Inc. made the trip here possible.
The national team is looking to win a first SEA Games gold medal, and in the way end the dominance of Singapore, which has bagged the title for 27 straight times, or since the sport was introduced during the 1965 meet.
Sicat said he hopes for the national team to win the gold in front of the Filipinos.
“It’s a great honor for me, and my family, for me wearing the national team colors,” Sicat said as he traces his Filipino roots from his father Sonny Sicat – who arrived Monday from San Francisco – in Pampanga.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity to represent the Philippines, and I hope that we capture the gold medal in the SEA Games in front of our kababayans. We know it’s not going to easy, but we’re doing everything to be well prepared for a tough battle against Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia,” added Sicat.
The last time the national team had a podium finish was in 2009 when it settled with a silver medal.
Other members of the water polo squad are team captain Tani Gomez, Mark Valdez, Macgyver Reyes, Adan Gonzales, Paolo Serrano, Abnel Amiladjid, Rey Salonga, Romark Belo and Mummar Alamara.
Meantime, the Philippine team takes on Malaysia Thursday at the same venue.