The national women’s team absorbed a sorry straight-set loss to Kazakhstan in its second match in the AVC Asian Senior Women’s Volleyball Championship Friday at the Alonte Sports Arena.
But instead of sulking in despair, head coach Francis Vicente saw some positive points in that setback.
And those golden nuggets will surely make them stronger, better both as individuals and as a team.
“I like the way we played. I’m still proud of them. They played their hearts out and refused to lose until the end. Nobody quit. Everybody competed.”
Vicente was accurate: The Nationals played their hearts out.
Against the taller, heftier Kazakhstan, the national squad did its best to keep up despite all the disadvantages stacked against it.
The Kazakhs rank no. 21 in the latest FIVB ranking, more than 50 notches ahead of the Philippines, which ranks no. 79, proving that their volleyball technology, training, tactics and overall management are still light years apart.
Kazakhstan also has the experience.
Although it’s not yet in the same league as Olympic champion China and global superpowers like South Korea, Japan and Thailand in Asia, it manages to make a cameo appearance in the Beijing Olympics in 2008, World Championships in 2006, 2010 and 2014 and World Grand Prix from 2007 to 2017.
It even won the bronze medal in the Doha Asian Games in 2010 and the silver medal in the Asian Cup last year while consistently seeing action in the Asian Championship.
On the other hand, the Philippines’ brightest volleyball moment was when it won the gold medal in the Singapore Southeast Asian Games in 1993. It also had a 10-year absence in the Games before making a return in the Singapore SEA Games in 2015 where it came up with a lowly fifth place finish.
But in their battle in Asia’s most prestigious volleyball tournament, those numbers hardly mattered.
The home squad fought tooth and nail in every set and refused to get intimidate by the towering presence of its foe. Until the very end, just when the Kazakhs were about to wrap up the match, the Nationals refused to give up as Alyssa Valdez kept on firing, hoping to somehow turn the tide to their favor.
The only glaring setback was in the blocking department where the spikers from the former Soviet stronghold completely dominated the Filipinos, 17-3.
“I think we need more international exposure, more competitive games.”
“But so far, they showed good performance. We just need to go back to the drawing board to asses and determine what went wrong.”
With the setback, the Nationals will have no choice but to open their second round campaign against London Olympics Most Valuable Player Kim Yeon-kuong and the might Koreans.
South Korea prevailed over New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Vietnam in lopsided fashions to top Pool C while the Philippines settled for the second spot of Pool A by virtue of that setback to Kazakhstan.
After South Korea, the home team will face Vietnam, the same squad that might serve as the biggest thorn on its path in the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games next week.
Vicente is aware of the tough road ahead, but beamed optimism over the ability of his wards to pull off a shocking upset using their sheer hard work and determination.
“We can’t do anything about it. We can’t just simply pick who our next opponent will be. But all I can say is that the team is ready and we will go all out to give other teams a tough time.”
“Everybody is contributing. We just have to play hard and minimize our errors. As I’ve said, this is an elite tourney. Everybody here is good and capable of winning the crown. We just have to play hard and show that we also deserve to be here.”
The Nationals will face the Koreans at 5:30 pm on Sunday.