By Betheena Unite
The Philippine women’s volleyball team dropped its first game in the 30th Southeast Asian Games against Vietnam in a five-set thriller witnessed by a mammoth crowd Tuesday at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
National team standouts Alyssa Valdez, Ces Molina, Jovelyn Gonzaga, and Majoy Baron displayed an efficient scoring performance only to be outlasted by Vietnam, the 27th SEA Games bronze medalist, 21-25, 25-23, 25-19, 20-25, 15-8.
Thi Than Thuy Tran led Vietnam with 27 points, mostly off attacks.
Valdez paced the Nationals with 22 points, coming from 20 attacks and two service aces, while Molina, Gonzaga, and ASEAN Grand Prix best middle blocker Baron combined for 34 points only to fall short in the deciding fifth set against the more experienced Vietnam team.
The Philippine team’s closest shot at winning the game was at 6-6 deadlock in the fifth set off Vietnam’s attack error. But the Vietnamese countered with two straight points to take the lead 8-6 and never looked back.
Despite the loss, Coach Shaq delos Santos took it as a lesson for their next games in the short tournament.
“I think meron kaming magandandang naging performance but siyempre medyo na-short. Hindi maganda yung result pero lesson learned para sa amin and siyempre kailangan namin paghandaan yung mga next game namin (I think we had a good performance but we only fell short. The result was not good but it was a lesson learned for us as we take on our next games),” delos Santos said.
Valdez stressed that Vietnam’s experience got the best of them and prevented the Nationals to take the victory.
“Kinulang sabi nga ni coach, kinapos kami talaga sa dulo, we had a good fight from the first set to the fourth set but I guess, experience will play a big role during the fifth set and sa dami siguro ng laro ng Vietnam for the longest time na international competitions na medyo ngayon hinahabol natin as a national team,” Valdez said.
“We’re thinking positively naman sa game simula pa lang so we can’t drag ourselves down. So, kailangan positive pa rin,” she added.
Team captain Aby Maraño, who chipped in five points, also believed that the loss was instrumental for their improvement.
“Sayang, yun lang unang pumasok sa isip ko kasi nakita ko yung effort ng team, e nandoon. Siguro isa ‘to sa mga aral na dadalhin namin para ma mag-improve pa kami, ma-motivate kami and ma-inspire kami na pagbutihan pa sa mga susunod na laban (I think this will be among the lessons that we have to take to improve, to be motivated, and inspired in the next games).”
Delos Santos also admitted that the team, which had to go through adjustments after losing two Fil-American players, had “inconsistencies in both offense and defense” — factors for improvement in their next outings. “[T]he game isn’t just for us.”