NT finally smells SEA Games bronze

Monday, 14 Aug 2017
Julius Manicad - @JCManicad
Photo courtesy of Noel Monzales, Volleyball PH

More than marching to the quarterfinals oozing with confidence, the Philippines’ victory over Vietnam in the 19th AVC Asian Senior Women’s Championship means something to the Filipinos.

It means that the elusive bronze medal in the 29th Southeast Asian Games is within reach.

In a match billed as preview of the biennial meet in Kuala Lumpur next week, the Philippines delivered and displayed the deadly form it patiently polished in the quiet gymnasiums in Okayama City, Osaka and Kobe in Japan.

Alyssa Valdez and Jaja Santiago served as cannons at the attack zone while Maika Ortiz and Aby Marano provided the defensive blanket at the net with Dawn Macandili acting as a hungry wolf at the backline.

It was a total team effort.

These braved Filipinas proved that winning over a disciplined team like Vietnam is possible.

They proved that they deserve to return to the medal podium of the SEA Games.

Cursed

The road back to winning a medal in the regional spectacle has been a bumpy ride.

The last time the Filipinos won was in 2005 when the biennial meet was held in Bacolod City.

Since then, Philippine volleyball faded into oblivion as political mudslinging and bickering prevented the country from assembling a true-blue national team.

Ten years later, the Philippines returned to the Games.

But the field had greatly evolved.

Thailand, the team that the Nationals bullied in the gold-medal match of the 1993 Singapore SEA Games, morphed into a dragon that dominates event in the same manner the Filipinos dominate men’s basketball competition.

Indonesia also blossomed into a force with powerful open spiker Aprilia Manganang carrying the torch while Vietnam remained solid due to its strong blocking and defensive discipline.

The Philippines suffered its worst finish ever – a sorry fifth-place finish – sending players, officials and even fans into thinking of what went wrong.

Although it tried to redeem its lost pride by competing in various international tourneys, the mere thought of once ruling the SEA Games seems like a distant memory, a faded glory left dusting in an oft-forgotten corner of the players’ volleyball fantasy.

But on a balmy Monday night, a small miracle happened.

Ready to win

With thousands of fans watching live from the Alonte Sports Arena and in the comfort of their living room, the national squad finally broke the curse and prevailed over the Vietnamese in four sets.

The victory is very special to them as it would give them a mental edge when they face the Vietnamese in the SEA Games for a victory that would give them a fighting chance to win the bronze medal.

Vietnam and the Philippines are on the same bracket and if the Filipinos prevail in their battle on Aug. 25, they would punch one of the two semifinal tickets, virtually assuring them of fighting for the bronze medal.

And head coach Francis Vicente knows that.

“It’s a major morale booster because the players would think that they are also capable of winning over Vietnam.”

“If they believe that they can, then they can definitely do it. That’s how it works.”

Vicente reiterated that their goal in the SEA Games is to win the bronze medal.

To some, it may be a noble target, but to the Filipinos, who have been salivating to return back to the medal podium, it’s a victory that should be cherished.

It’s a bronze that glitters like gold.