Growing pains: Philippines vs. South Korea

The lowest scoring output in a set during the AVC Cup for Women 2018 is Kazakhstan’s six points. However, that unimpressive figure was recorded in the race-to-fifteen fifth set against an Iranian squad that can string together a bunch of points in a hurry. We need not look further than the 25-12 score line the Iranians tallied against the Philippine women’s volleyball team during the fourth set of their Pool C play. In a blink of an eye, Iran piled up the points and the game is over.

But tallying only seven points in a set wherein the winner is required to get 25 spells a lot of errors and miscues committed by the losing side. Unfortunately, this was the reality suffered by the Philippine team against a young but disciplined South Korean squad that was edged by Chinese Taipei in the quarterfinals. The score line had me wondering: how dismal our team’s output can be if Kim Yeon-koung suited up for South Korea?

Worst, the count was already at 8-4 Korea by the first technical timeout and one of the Philippines’ points is courtesy of a Go Yerim service error. Our team did not even score coming into the second technical timeout. Zone 6 seemed to be no man’s land as the Korean spikers continually scored by targeting the hole in that spot. If they are not targeting that spot, the South Koreans unleashed a deadly service game combined with intelligent spiking that glanced off our blockers.

The first set was slightly better for the Philippines as they collected 13 points. In Set 4, even the South Korean players were gassed but they still pulled off the win. Our team did win the second set, but the score is at 26-24 and the Korean sets were executed in a slower pace. But for that nightmare of a third set, our team got a glimpse of how long the journey is to being competitive with Asia’s best and how we ought our program to be built.

The composure that these young South Koreans showed speaks volumes of how soundly structured and progressive their volleyball program is. Height-wise, out players are at par with theirs for their tallest only has an inch or two advantage. However, their training has molded them to be technically-sound players even if a number of them are still in high school. Likewise, the system the use with their young ones is the same with that of their senior national team. That singular approach helps them field a team that can be just as efficient.

As for us, the road has just started. We have just competed in the Asian Games again after 36 years and some players in that squad did not compete in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand for various reasons. But by being exposed to competitions like these, we are given a harsh reality of how long the journey will be. The 25-7 set is also an indication that age is not an excuse to delay training our players the right way, especially if they are to get serious about the sport.

Team statistics – Philippines vs. Korea – 6th AVC Cup for Women

Our team knew who to stop in the Korean side. However, having a game plan to stop them is another aspect. Thus, it’s no surprise that South Korea dominated in spikes, 60-45. Out of their total, 51 of the spike points came from their three best players: Go Yerim (20), Hwang Minkyoung (16), and Ha Hyejin (15). Meanwhile, Yerim Go’s spike success rate is an eye-popping 51.3% (20/39). Hyejin Ha’s is at 40.5% (15/37) and Minkyoung Hwang connected on 36.3% (16/44) of her spikes. As a team, South Korea had a spike conversion rate of 40.3% (60/149).

With numbers like these, their main guns had a field day in exposing the Philippines’ incohesive defense. Go Yerim had 23 total points while Ha Hyejin and Hwang Minkyoung had 21 and 17, respectively. Kim Chaeyeon added seven markers while Han Sooji, An Hyejin, and Ji Minkyeong scored five, four, and one.

Aside from dominating the spikes department, the Korean defense had our players marked, especially Valdez. The former Lady Eagle converted 14 of her 47 spike attempts for a rate of 29.8%. Next to her on spike attempts is Cha Cruz – Behag with 23 and Maika Ortiz with 11. That discrepancy highlights the team’s over-dependence on one player. It’s no question that Valdez is an exceptional talent. However, she needs her teammates to step up because she has been continually checked. How can we defeat them if our second leading scorer, Mylene Paat, had less than 11 spike attempts?

Service aces advantage to the Koreans is a whopping 11-2. Opponent errors are also in favor of the Lee Kyungsuk-coached squad (KOR – 14; PHI – 21). The Koreans also had a slight advantage in kill blocks, 7-6.

Valdez led the Philippine offense with 15 points while Cruz-Behag contributed eight. Maika Ortiz and Aby Marano had seven apiece while Mika Reyes and Aiza Maizo-Pontillas gave five points each. Paat had an off-day with four points while Risa Sato and Gretchel Soltones had a point apiece. Melissa Gohing scored via a nicely placed hit at the middle of the Korean defense while Denden Lazaro made an accidental over-set that dropped just over the Korean side of the net.