Philippines vs. Indonesia Game Ball: Failure to adjust

The beauty of playing an opponent deep into a tournament is that coaches will have much game film and statistics to work with. This information will help them plot a strategy that can lead them to victory. However, this wasn’t the case when the Philippines faced Indonesia last night at the GBK Tennis Indoor in Jakarta. Our team knew who to stop on the other side but we did not adjust. We knew that they had an excellent libero but we kept on serving to her.

Thus, my game prediction became half true. There was a winner in four sets but sadly, it was not our national squad. But the outcome could have been reversed if our tacticians played much respect to Aprilia Santini Manganang. Instead, it was another day in the office for her with 28 points, 27 off spikes. If there is a ball-dominating spiker on one end who is capable of scoring close to 30 points per game, wouldn’t you do everything to neutralize her? Instead we had setter Kim Fajardo facing Manganang at the net to start the game while 6’ 5” Jaja Santiago was at zone six.

We can never play the pity card over and over again to cite confusion about Manganang’s sexuality. For those who still do, this rant will lead nowhere. In fact, we are the only country questioning it because the FIVB, the world’s governing body for volleyball, has certified that she is a woman. But regardless of who you face, preparing accordingly will help score a win. Common knowledge tells you that taller blockers will help contain the spikes of a powerful hitter.

Therefore, Indonesia’s star opposite hitter should be marked the whole game. But despite how much we know about her, we failed to neutralize Aprilia and she ended up just a point behind the production of our two leading scorers (Jaja Santiago and Alyssa Valdez had a combined 29 points).

Here are our other take-aways from this 2018 Asian Games match:

Indonesia played a solid defensive game

The Philippine squad might have won the kill block battle, 11-7, but Indonesia dominated them in digs and receptions. While our team had 21 successful digs, Indonesian libero Berllian Marsheilla had 19 to herself while the rest of their troops had 18. That 16-dig advantage is a key indicator as to why Indonesia won close sets. Dawn Macandili’s 19 dig faults did not help our cause either.

Our team lost the game by a net deficit of 11 points. Somewhere along the tail end of each set, the Indonesians might have executed a crucial dig or two to seal the set to their favor. Meanwhile, the Marsheilla defensive clinic kept rolling with 20 excellent receptions and a 74% success rate. If she’s this good, I wonder why our players kept on serving towards her. On the flip side, Valdez, Macandili, and Cha Cruz’ 37 combined excellent receptions helped maintained the Philippines’ fighting chance.

Amalia Fajrina Nabila has a wicked serve

She throws the ball very high before hitting it with force at the apex of her jump. The result is a fast and sharp approach to receivers which makes it difficult to field. No wonder she connected on four aces. Though some of team captain Amalia Fajrina Nabila‘s serves were telegraphed, it gave our team a hard time getting clean sets or passes for more scores. Her mechanics are comparable to Thailand’s Chatchu-On Moksri.

In contrast, a service specialist is what we we sorely lack in this group of Philippine volleybelles. We can score the occasional ace but we don’t have anyone who can confound all six players on the opposite end with the trajectory and velocity of her serve.

Aprilia the conqueror

She did it in the 2015 Southeast Asian Games and she has done it again at home in the 2018 Asian Games. It seems like Manganang loves to play against the Philippines. Sad news is that she will still suit up for Indonesia in future competitions especially the 2019 SEA Games. If our basketball players have to deal with the Curse of South Korea, then Manganang is like a ghost that will keep on haunting Philippine volleyball.

Where do we really put our two best scorers?

It seems like our coaching staff is guilty of either too much strategy or not knowing their player’s strengths. Alyssa Valdez, the best scorer in the team, started at second open. Then, she was shifted to first open. Why can’t we keep her in a position where she is most comfortable with? The same goes for Jaja Santiago. She was placed in different zones until she was subbed out of the game. Shouldn’t be she playing in the front row for much of the game knowing that it will be a close contest against Aprilia and the rest of the Indonesian squad? Decisions, decisions.

There’s still reason to celebrate…for now

If Hong Kong can’t beat Thailand, Indonesia, and our team, what more Japan? The Philippine women’s volleyball team might have lost this game but they will still make it to the quarterfinals. However, it’s not reassuring that they might face world number one China in the playoffs. The Chinese haven’t dropped a set in four victories and the trend won’t change when they complete their Pool B round-robin against India.

Team Philippines could have drawn either South Korea or Kazakhstan in the quarters if only they defeated the Indonesians. Now, our players are just a few days away from facing Zhu Ting and the great wall of China’s blockers. There’s no room for optimism that the Philippines will win that game. Rather, the game will only highlight the discrepancy between their volleyball program and ours. Therefore, let’s book our squad in the 5th-8th classification stage and the consolation that with more games comes more exposure.