By Jonas Terrado
The Philippines bucked a slow start to beat Cambodia 29-27, 25-17, 25-17 Monday to start its campaign in men’s volleyball of the 30th Southeast Asian Games at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
Marck Espejo scored 21 points while Joshua Retamar had 11 points with 15 excellent sets in his debut to give the Nationals a winning start in their bid for a semifinal spot in the biennial meet.
Bryan Bagunas, who spent most of the past few months playing for a club team in Japan, also came through for the hosts with 14 points.
Coach Dante Alinsunurin’s side gained a share of the early lead in Group B with Indonesia, which earlier Vietnam 25-20, 25-22, 25-21.
The Nationals are eyeing a top two finish to secure a place in the semis, but the chances are stacked them.
They face Vietnam on Wednesday and Indonesia on Friday, games that will determine the team’s fate in the competition.
“Basta tuluy-tuloy lang ginagawa namin kasi kailangan din namin manalo para makapasok sa semifinals,” said Alinsunurin. “Yung importante lang talaga yung ginagawa namin talaga na mali, ma-correct namin at anu pwede namin i-adjust, dun kami magcoconcentrate.”
The Philippines won despite rallying from a 16-12 deficit in the first set behind Espejo and Retamar, an incoming sophomore at UAAP champion National University.
Cambodia moved into set point at 27-26 but Retamar scored a drop ball to keep tie the score.
The Cambodians misfired on the next serve, putting the Philippines up 28-27 before Retamar blocked My Raksmey’s shot to claim the opening set.
“Nung first set medyo struggle siguro dahil first game at nag-kakapaan pa kami. Pero nakarecover naman kami pero yun nga nandun pa rin yung errors,” said Espejo.