2018 Asian Games Recap: Finishing in eighth

After the Philippine women’s volleyball team was decimated by China during their quarterfinals match-up, they could have wilted away during their 5th to 8th classification stage encounter with Kazakhstan. However, our players showed that there is much left to play for. Just imagine the possibility of finishing fifth after the four powerhouse nations of Asian volleyball after 36 years of not competing.

But early on in the match, it seemed like the Philippine volleybelles were not able to recover from their loss. They played sluggish against a tall but slow Kazakh team and their miscues amounted to a dismal 25-11 set courtesy of the stellar play of Sana Anarkulova, Yekaterina Zhdanova, and Yana Petrenko.

The tone changed in the second set when Jia Morado executed the offense well to find Alyssa Valdez, Jaja Santiago, Mylene Paat, Maika Ortiz, and Majoy Baron for scores to win set two, 25-22. Yet in set three, Kazakhstan built a 5-1 lead and never looked back to take one step closer to a victory, 25-15. Down but not out, the Philippines bounced back in set four by dominating since a 2-2 tie to force a deciding fifth set, 25-19.

The fifth set is just one to remember. After the Philippines raced to a 3-0 lead, the Kazakhs were able to tie the game at eight. A see-saw battle ensued until Alessya Safronova blocked Paat’s spike to bring them to within match point. However, Kristina Karapetan committed a service error to tie the game at 14. But Safronova atoned her earlier mistake to convert a kill spike while her block off Santiago sealed the victory for Kazakhstan.

It was a commendable performance for our players despite the close defeat. Morado certainly shone with 26 excellent sets to go with two service aces and three kill spikes while Santiago scored 19 (17 spikes, two aces). Surprise second-leading scorer Paat contributed 14 (11 spikes, 2 aces, one kill block) while Valdez registered 13 (11 spikes, one ace, one block). Maika Ortiz tallied nine points (six spikes, two aces, one kill block).

Despite the stellar outing, they were edged by Kazakhstan. The stats are pretty even in all departments but one: blocks. Their 18 successful blocks against to the Philippines’ five is a major factor why they came out with a win and set a match with Vietnam for fifth place which the Kazakhs won. As for our team, we were relegated to the seventh-place game against Aprilia Manganang and host team Indonesia.

Philippines vs. Indonesia – settling for eighth

While ace Indonesia opposite spiker Aprilia Santini Manganang’s production was nine points less than during their first encounter, the Philippine women’s volleyball team still bowed out in four sets. Coming off an impressive performance against Kazakhstan, Paat led the way with 10 points while Valdez tallied nine. However, Santiago was limited to just five points, one lower than Aby Maraño who had six.

Looking through the numbers, the digs and set average for the Philippines were both at 7.5% while Indonesia is at 13% and 12.25%, respectively. The Indonesians also had a huge advantage in spikes, 54-33. While Valdez, Denden Lazaro, and Dawn Macandili had 15 combined excellent digs, Indonesia’s libero Berllian Marshiella had 14 herself. Reception percentage is also to Indonesia’s favor, 54.7% to 40.2%.

Still, there are performances worth commending. Macandili had 10 excellent receptions while Valdez and Lazaro each had seven. Cha Cruz was able to receive 14 serves. Our team fought valiantly in sets three and four before tasting defeat. Though there was a real opportunity to defeat equal adversaries for fifth, the Philippine women’s volleyball team settled for eighth out of 11 teams. On the bright side, being a playoff team in the Asian Games is something our volleyball program can build on. The talent is there but the seasoning for international competitions is not.

After the Asian Games, Team Philippines will compete in the AVC Women’s Volleyball Cup in Thailand with nine other nations. A number of players from the Asian Games squad will not be donning the flag’s colors for this tournament. Despite that, the remaining players will look to improve their performance by applying the lessons they have learned in going up against Asia’s best.