MANILA, Philippines – After more than a month of inactivity in the Japan V. League due to COVID protocols, the Saitama Ageo Medics returned on Saturday, February 19, but fell short in a stinging five-set marathon, 25-21, 27-29, 25-18, 18-25, 25-27 to the Hitachi Rivale.
Filipina star blocker Jaja Santiago contributed across the board with 16 points off 12 attacks, 2 blocks, and 2 aces in a nail-biting contest that lasted two hours and 41 minutes.
Import Lorenne Teixeira paced the loss with a game-high 29 markers while Fuyumi Hawi Okumu Oba helped lift Hitachi to an 8-13 record with 28 points.
The Rivale have since gone up to 9-13 off a four-set win against the Himeji Victorina on Sunday, February 20.
Saitama then made sure to atone for their Saturday heartbreak, and once again went the distance in their Sunday bounce-back win against the Denso Airybees, 25-27, 25-19, 25-17, 21-25, 16-14.
This time, Santiago got way more active on defense, and finished with 24 points off 16 attacks, a game-high 7 blocks, and an ace to help seal the win and the 11-7 record.
Teixeira again led the team in scoring, this time in a winning effort, with 28 markers while Minami Nakamoto and Yuki Hyodo chipped in 17 points apiece in the tough loss for the 13-7 Airybees.
In a deviation from the usual league schedule pattern, Santiago and the rest of the Ageo Medics now have a Wednesday, February 23, makeup game against the 13-5 NEC Red Rockets before their usual weekend slate on February 26 and 27.
Over at the men’s division, the Oita Miyoshi Weisse Adler failed to win a set over the weekend as the third-ranked Toray Arrows cruised to back-to-back sweeps on Saturday, 25-23, 25-21, 25-22, and Sunday, 25-21, 25-22, 25-12.
National team mainstay Bryan Bagunas powered Saturday’s loss with 15 points off 12 attacks, and 3 blocks, before chipping in just 9 markers, all off attacks, in Sunday’s defeat.
Now holding a 5-21 record in the ninth spot of the ten-team field, Bagunas and Oita will have back-to-back chances to upset the 13-11 JTEKT Stings next weekend.
Finally, Marck Espejo and FC Tokyo sat out last Saturday and Sunday after their matches against the 15-7 Wolfdogs Nagoya got canceled due to health protocols. Their next chance to return will be next weekend against the 10-16 JT Thunders Hiroshima. – Rappler.com