By Betheena Unite
Coming into the game against powerhouse Thailand, the Philippine women’s volleyball team wanted to leave a mark even sans the win.
And they did.
Thailand, the 2017 Southeast Asian Games gold medalist, turned back the gutsy Philippine women’s volleyball in three straight sets 25-16, 25-22, 34-32 Thursday at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
But the Nationals made the Thais work for every point, especially in the epic third set where skipper Aby Marano’s team reached set point on several occasions.
The 11-time champion was in full control of the game and was only a point away from making quick work of the Philippine squad, 24-19, but the Filipino volleybelles refused to back down that early.
The Filipinas, who earlier vowed to play their hearts out, made a gallant run to string five straight points to tie the game and threatened to steal the set from Thailand.
It started with a block from Maddie Madayag, followed by four kills from Alyssa Valdez and Jovelyn Gonzaga to force a deadlock at 24-all.
Both teams then took turns in scoring but the celebrated Thailand team maintained its dominance and finished the game by catching the Philippines’ defense off guard twice in a row 34-32.
Valdez once again led the Philippines’ rally with 14 points, off 12 attacks and two service aces while Mylene Paat chipped in 11 points.
Majoy Baron and Abigail Maraño had seven points apiece.
Maraño, who after their close match against Vietnam said that they will give the Thais a game to remember, was the happiest for making her promise come true.
“Natuwa ako kasi at least nagdilang anghel ako sa sinabi ko na mabigyan namin sila ng magandang laban kasi start palang ng training namin kahapon at saka kanina, iniisip na namin na kailangan mabigyan talaga namin ng magandang laban yung Thailand para hindi naman kami bugbog-sarado sa kanila,” she said after the game that lasted for almost two hours.
The Philippine national team mainstay said the hard-fought third set was a testament of their improvement as a team which could barely keep up with Thailand in the past years.
“Since 2015, talagang halos parang hindi kami maka-block, hindi kami makahawak ng bola nila. Parang pinaglalaruan kami, parang hindi kami marunong maglaro ng volleyball. Ganun yung feeling. Ginagawa kaming parang hindi volleyball player nung nagsisimula kami,” she said.
“Pero ngayon napakalaki na ng naitakbo ng volleyball sa Pilipinas,” she added.
National team head coach Shaq delos Santos was equally happy with his team’s showing.
“Siyempre sobrang nakaka-proud kasi like nung every huddle namin pinag-uusapan namin na maglaro lang kayo i-enjoy natin at ibigay yung 100 percent kasi wala namang mawawala e,” Delos Santos said.
Thailand volleyball superstar Pleumjit Thinkaow did not have to enter the game as Pimpichaya Kokram and Wilavan Apinyapong delivered the goods for the world-class team with 19 and 15 points, respectively.