MANILA, Philippines－ There was a different feel at the Alonte Sports Arena for the Philippine national women’s volleyball team’s second match in the Asian Senior Women’s Volleyball Championship.
Goosebumps at times broke out when the nationals plunged and pounced, fighting for every point and possession to keep pace with a much higher-ranked Kazakhstan.
The Kazakhs prevailed with a 25-23, 25-20, 25-19 win on Friday, August 11 to stay undefeated and on top of their pool. But in the eyes of 4,800 fans present, the game was so much more than that.
Although they got off to a hot start, the Philippine team lost momentum when they dropped the tightly contested first set.
They lost the next two en route to their first defeat in the tourney, but not without giving a proper fight even when the team was down by double digits.
Jaja Santiago anchored the squad’s come-from-behind run in the second, and even handed the Philippines a brief lead midway through the set.
Alyssa Valdez refused to let the team go quietly into the night as she spearheaded the fightback when the Kazakhs appeared to pull away quickly in the 3rd set.
As with the Gilas Pilipinas basketball team – which has posted two victories in a row in the likewise ongoing 2017 FIBA Asia Cup – the puso exhibited by this Philippine volleyball lineup in the match was undeniable.
It was Kazakhstan’s experience and efficient crunch time touches that eventually won it in the end. But that doesn’t mean Philippine head coach Francis Vicente wasn’t proud of the effort and fearlessness on display.
“I just told them [after the game to work on] consistency, composure, lessen errors, and application of what is being taught,” Vicente shared to Rappler.
“Still very proud of the team because they showed heart and strength.”
“Imagine practicing for 17 days together and playing a seasoned team who is ranked 21st in the record of FIVB? Us, we are ranked 77 but still we managed to put the score higher than expected.”
The Philippines will still advance to the quarterfinal round and also straight to the Asian Volleyball Cup next year－ marking the first time PH has qualified in the biennial contest.
Vicente says it will be an arduous road in the next phase, but the process of going up against seasoned squads will be great training for the girls to prepare them for future battles such as the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
“The goal is to enter the quarter finals. In advancing to the next round, it’s more on a tough journey. Teams on the quarterfinals are seasoned and well-experienced in the international arena.”
“Study and focus is needed in this round. Lessening unforced errors will help in everything,” Vicente noted.
“For the Asian Cup, it’s a big exposure for the team.”
In a few days, right after the country’s hosting of the volleyball tilt, the Philippine team will fly straight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for this year’s regional meet.
The national squad’s mentor also shared a few takeaways from last night’s match that the team can bring when they finally suit up for action on the Southeast Asian stage.
“The lesson na pwedeng ibaon at matutunan (that we can bring and can be learned) is consistency and focus,” he added. “[Also], movements should be fast.” －Rappler.com
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