The Asian Games agony of Philippine women’s national team

Sunday, 05 Aug 2018
Lawrence Fernandez - Editor - @lancefernandez

The 2018 edition in Jakarta will only be the fifth time that the Philippine women’s volleyball team will spike for success in the Asian Games. While our squad is facing a tall order in squeaking past Thailand (W), Japan (W), Hong Kong (W), and host Indonesia (W) during the group stage, a glimpse of their past performances reveal more heartbreak than success.

1962 Asian Games – destined for last

Coincidentally, the national women’s spikers first competed in the Asian Games at Jakarta’s Senayan Volleyball Stadium in 1962. The good news is that they finished fourth. The bad news is that only four teams competed. They could have placed fifth if the Republic of China (Taiwan) competed but they were not granted visas by the Indonesian government due to their political allegiance to the People’s Republic of China.

In a time when side-outs were still needed before scoring, the Philippine team won only two out of 11 sets. Those two wins came at the expense of South Korea on 25 August 1962. Our team won the first two sets to the tune of 15-10 and 16-14 before the opponents swept the remaining three chapters. Team Philippines mustered a total of only eight points in sets three and four before losing the fifth, 15-11.

After that nail-biting game, the Philippines were defeated in straight sets by Indonesia the following day (15-11, 15-8, 15-8) and was dominated by Japan on the 27th of August. The Japanese blanked the Philippines in the second set and gave up only seven points in the entire match (15-4, 15-0, 15-3). In total, the Philippine women’s volleyball team gave up 159 points and scored only 84. The team also finished fourth after Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia respectively in the nine-a-side women’s volleyball tournament.

1966 Asian Games – almost a bronze

There was a time when the Philippines can still defeat Thailand in women’s volleyball. Despite the Thais having home court advantage during the 1966 Asian Games in Bangkok, the Filipino volleybelles defeated them in four sets, 15-8, 15-8, 13-15, and 15-9 at the Thammasat Gymnasium eight days before Christmas. The team also defeated Burma (now Myanmar) in straight sets on the opening day of competitions.

Still, the national team fell short of a medal after settling for fourth due to losses against South Korea in four sets, Iran in five, and Japan in three. After five games, the Philippines garnered seven points by virtue of two points per victory and one point per loss. Still, that is a point shy of the Iranians who took bronze. They also won nine sets but lost ten. Just like in 1962, Japan and South Korea finished first and second place respectively.

1970 Asian Games – the downfall

The Philippine women’s volleyball team had a repeat victory over Thailand in straight sets even though the tournament was held once again in Bangkok. Prior to that, our spikers won over Indonesia to tally two straight victories. But the sad fact is that those are consolations victories because our team has been out of medal contention due to a five-game losing streak. Their campaign started with back-to-back, straight-set losses to Republic of China and Japan.

The woes piled up when our squad lost to eventual bronze medalists Khmer Republic (now Cambodia) before suffering consecutive defeats against South Korea and Iran. The Philippines placed sixth out of eight teams even though continuous participation in the Asian Games should bring progress. Instead, our national women’s volleyball team were outclassed by the Khmer Republic who already won a medal in their first tour of duty at a time when their country is often dragged into the tension of the Vietnam War.

From this point, volleyball in the Philippines took a nosedive. The Martial Law regime of President Ferdinand Marcos placed a premium on culture while the unrivaled popularity of basketball led to the opening of the Philippine Basketball Association in 1975 and the hosting of the 1978 FIBA World Cup. With the sport relegated in the sidelines, it would take 12 years before the Philippine women’s volleyball team can take center stage in the Asian Games again.

1982 Asian Games – straight sets of sorrow

This edition of the Asian Games for the Philippine women’s volleyball team can be summed up in two words: straight sets. Before winning their last match against hosts India in straight sets (15-9, 15-9, 15-2), the national team endured straight-set losses in their first four matches.

The tournament started on 21 November with a defeat against eventual silver medalists Japan. Four days later, eventual gold medalists China kept our squad winless. Bronze medalists South Korea followed the script to bring the Philippine team’s record to 0-3. Then on the 2nd of December, North Korea made it 0-4 with the score of 15-2, 15-12, 15-1.

Since then, our country has not cheered for a women’s volleyball squad in the past nine Asian Games. But that drought will end in the nation where it all started. After 36 years of absence, the Philippine women’s volleyball team is ready to make some kills to make our republic proud. Let’s cheer as one nation by tuning in to their game schedules.