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AVC U23 Day 4 Roundup: Finally, CHINA!!

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It’s amazing how the top teams of this tournament have consistently churned out one classic match after another. Word to the locals, indulge as much as you can with the remaining matches of the tournament. It’s rare that we get to host the best teams of any sport on our home floor, so enjoy the tournament while it lasts. You can imagine that yesterday’s games were the spicy appetizers to the gut-wrenching main course we’re going to have today. Now, let us run through the rest of yesterday’s matches.

 

MATCH 1: KAZAKHSTAN DEFEATS MALDIVES 25-10, 25-4, 25-8

AVCU23 KAZvsMDV Day 4-9737

You have to feel for the Kazakhs, since nothing has gone well for them for the first few days of the tournament. Already playing with a depleted lineup, they’ve had to deal with playing the host country and its raucous crowd, as well as fight for their lives against an Iran team that had the luxury of a one-day preparation prior to their match. Their stay in the Philippines hasn’t been kind to one of the most feared teams in Asia. Hopefully, their win against Maldives left them with better memories of their time here.

Maldives, as they have been in the entire tournament, struggled mightily to produce points. Only three players provided the offensive power for the team, contributing nine attack points and four aces.

Moreover, Kazakhstan really wailed on their vertically-challenged foe, which led to their best outing of the tournament. They pulled significant contributions from everyone they fielded, and chalked up 33 attack points, 12 aces, eight blocks and only 10 errors. Sadly though, Amanda Villanueva’s long-lost Kazakh sister, Yana Yagodina, did not play because she needed rest. Nevertheless, the Kazakhs are the favorites to top the bottom classification phase, and eventually land ninth place at the tournament.

 

MATCH 2: CHINESE TAIPEI HAND IRAN ITS FIRST LOSS 25-17, 25-21, 25-17.

AVCU23 TPEvsIRI Day 4-9789

This match gave us an apt preview of the blistering pace Taiwan can play at. Their floor defense frustrated the a solid Iran team, as they managed to weather a lot of Iranian surges. Taiwan, like Japan, was devastating from the service area, This caused a struggle for the Iranian service reception with their ball control leading, which gave free balls that Taipei feasted on. Overall, Taipei outperformed Iran offensively as the former earned 53 points off their own offensive merits, while the latter only managed 34.

Iran, however, continued to receive a splendid all-around effort from their team captain, Mahsa Saberi, who delivered 9 points, 4 digs, and 7 excellent receptions. Meanwhile, middle blocker, Roosta Mina, topped Iran with 11 markers. No doubt, Iran is going to need to shore up their floor defense against Japan today to avoid the way on how the Taiwanese caught them flat-footed.

In addition, Taipei will be an incredibly tough challenge for the Philippines because they have the exact same strengths that Japan had. Furthermore, in their four games played this tournament, all six of their starters have scored in double digits. Their serving gave the defensively sound Japan problems that the Japanese eventually figured out on the fly. That being said, the Philippines need to turn around their subpar receiving performance within 24 hours. Today is going to be another uphill battle for us, luckily the host team is filled with players used to going up and down from the hill.

 

Match 3: China hulks up late, beats Korea 24-26, 23-25, 25-21, 25-21, 15-8

AVCU23 CHNvsKOR Day 4-9957

Most of the time, we dread having to watch five-set matches due to the mental and emotional strain it puts us through. This match, however, was one of those you wished never ended due to the sheer volleyball brilliance displayed by both teams.

China had no problems in its previous two matches until a gritty Korean team pulled out all the stops in trying to weather down China’s defensive wall. They fielded their top three outside hitters in Go, Ha, and Lee, who managed to devastate China’s vaunted blocking. All the tactics they did were enough in the early goings of the game, and managed to steal the first two sets through offensive bursts in the latter moments on the set.

However, China just kicked it to another gear in the following sets as they unleashed their best player, Liu Yanhan, an imposing 6’2 open hitter. To put into context for Yanhan’s sheer dominance, she’s like a female Marck Espejo with her explosive athleticism and power. Also add back row kills, crosscourt missiles, well-placed drop balls, steady blocking; you name it, she did it all in one game. Liu almost single-handedly powered her team to the finish line, and kept on punishing the Korean defense.

In the end, Korea ran out of gas in the fifth set, while China had all the momentum after winning two straight sets. In sum, China took full advantage of their superior height to topple the Koreans, as the former out-attacked the latter, 72-67, and out-blocked them 15-4. However, Korea’s Lee Soyoung still continued to captivate the hearts of the local crowd after putting up a gallant effort of 26 markers and 12 excellent receptions.

China will now face fellow undefeated team and arch-rivals, Thailand, today. It is guaranteed to be another classic. On the other hand, Korea will look to bounce back against India.

 

MATCH 5: THAILAND DOWNS INDIA 25-20, 25-21, 25-21

AVCU23 THAvsIND Day 4-0172

This match, though it lasted just three sets, felt like Thailand should have won it more convincingly. They had taller, more athletic, and more experienced players than India, but it seemed like they were in chill mode early in sets. Then, they would decide to just flip the kill switch when they needed just six or five more points to win a set.

Having watched how they took care of a tougher Korea team, it felt like Thailand could have done so much more against India. Their blocking was uncharacteristically average, and they’ve shown better rotations on the back line. Nonetheless, this match just showed how a dominant Thailand team has the luxury of having multiple gears to throw at opponents. Also, the Thais were still frisky enough on defense to force India into committing 24 errors, and their attackers were still the springy, jumping machines that cause a lot of frustration for opposing teams.

Expect a much better effort from them against their rivals, China, later today. Thailand has, on multiple international competitions, beat China rather convincingly. There’s some definite bad blood here, and it’ll be a treat to watch it bleed out into the volleyball court.

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Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball - from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado's setting.

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Raymond Almazan ejected in return

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Photo by PBA Images

It was supposed to be a redemption game for Raymond Almazan after he was benched last Wednesday for the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters against the Phoenix Fuel Masters, for disciplinary reasons. But unfortunately, it went the the other way around.

The six-foot-eight center was ejected in the Elasto Painters’ match versus Kia Picanto on Friday evening at the Cuneta Astrodome, following a near-brawl that took place between him and opposing big man Eric Camson.

The incident took place with 3:01 remaining in the second quarter, with the Picanto ahead 34-31. Almazan and Camson were both inside the paint looking for position to grab the missed three-pointer of Jeremy King.

Things then went chippy afterwards, as Camson elbowed Almazan. It did not sit well with the latter and he retaliated, leading to the near-brawl that saw both players swing their arms at each other.

Almazan and Camson had to be separated by their teammates and officials. Moments later, both of them were whistled for a flagrant foul penalty two and were ordered to leave the playing court for good.

Almazan finished with six points and three rebounds in six minutes and 10 seconds of action, while Camson exited the bout with 10 markers, five rebounds, and four assists in over 16 minutes of playing time.

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Fired-up Von Pessumal on Kiefer Ravena incident: ‘I’m not here to make any friends’

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Will bridges be burned?

Von Pessumal was heavily-scrutinized Friday evening after an incident with fellow Ateneo lifer Kiefer Ravena.

It took place with 9:50 left in the final frame of the San Miguel Beermen’s highly-charged tilt against the NLEX Road Warriors. After Marcio Lassiter launched a trey, Pessumal looked like he was aiming for the rebound. Instead, he simply charged towards Ravena and pushed him down.

Lassiter’s three-pointer counted, while Pessumal, who was blocked by Ravena in a fastbreak and then received a staredown moments prior, was whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul.

It was a surprising sight to see considering the amount of time he and Ravena have spent together — a bond that started ever since they were in high school. Even the second-generation star admitted that he did not expect that from his former running buddy.

“I did not expect that at all,” said the NLEX rookie.

But Pessumal downplayed such incident despite attempts by scribes to make him elaborate what had really transpired during that moment.

“It’s part of the game. It’s part of the game,” the league sophomore said after the match which they won 109-98. “I don’t wanna say anything, I’m sorry.

“It’s part of the game. Whatever move on. Not a big deal.”

Asked if he was motivated to face Ravena, whom he had shared three UAAP juniors titles, two UAAP seniors crowns, and a SEA Games gold medal with, the 24-year-old shared that he approached Friday’s bout the way he usually does.

“I wouldn’t say motivated [versus Kiefer], I mean, it’s just like any other game. When I play, I don’t see who’s guarding me, I just play,” said the 6-foot-2 swingman.

“I play to win all the time.”

The incident he and Ravena figured in shadowed his performance of 10 points on 50 percent shooting off the bench — the second time he had scored in double figures this season. After Friday, Pessumal is averaging 8.25 points.

“We have to sustain the level of excellence that they (starters) have. Our job is — I wouldn’t say support, but — when we get in, we should bring the level higher so when they come back, the game is easier for them,” he said.

Pessumal was then asked if he and Ravena met each other after the buzzer sounded as the two did not even shake hands after the contest. But, through a short yet strong response, the 24-year-old said that they did not.

“I wouldn’t say anything. I don’t know, after the game?,” he expressed.

“I’m a professional basketball player, I’m not here to make any friends.”

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Yeng Guiao denies using racial slur against Chris Ross

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During the post-game of the San Miguel Beermen’s victory over the NLEX Road Warriors, reigning Coach of the Year Leo Austria said that NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao had called Chris Ross the “N” word, which had caused the commotion.

According to Chris, tinawagan siya ng nigger or ganiyan,” said Austria. “I don’t know but that’s what he explained to me because I confronted Chris Ross because he’s one of the most important players in my team.

“But that’s the thing he doesn’t want to hear so nag-flare up yung bata so I cannot blame him.”

However, Guiao denied that he blurted out racial slurs against San Miguel’s Chris Ross.

“Hindi. Hindi ko tinawag na N-word. Ewan ko kung may nakarinig. Pero hindi,” clarified the fiery tactician moments after their 98-109 defeat, their third straight after starting the 2018 Philippine Cup with two straight wins.

That tussle, according to Guiao, was just filled with trash talking against each other, as he had felt the need to retaliate. In fact, Guiao was even caught by the TV camera saying “son of a bitch” towards the Filipino-American point guard.

“Daldal siya ng daldal eh. Eh sa akin naman kapag ganon, siguro respeto nalang. Lumayo ka nalang tutal mananalo naman na kayo,” he said. “I didn’t understand what he was saying, what he was talking about.

“Nakipagtrash-talking din ako sa kanya.”

Furthermore, the 58-year-old was also caught by the cameras flipping the bird — in one quick motion — also directed at Ross.

“Oo. Kasama na rin yun.

“Pero ano naman eh, it’s part of, siguro, psychological warfare. Malakas din siya mang-asar. Hindi lang naman sa amin. Everytime naman na mga ganoong skirmishes, he also knows what he’s capable of,” the seven-time champion coach furthered.

But more than this scuffle, it has been a stressful time for Guiao and the Road Warriors. They have now gone down to 2-3 in the team standings, and the mentor sees an urgent need to end this slump immediately.

“We have to arrest it very soon. Ang susunod na laro namin ay versus Rain or Shine sa Friday. So we need to go back to 50 percent win-loss level para at least may chance ka na maka-playoffs. That’s going to be a crucial game for us,” he stressed.

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Kiefer Ravena shocked with Von Pessumal’s shove: ‘I did not expect that at all’

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Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal have been teammates ever since they were in high school, winning three UAAP juniors crowns together. They won two championships together in the seniors level and even played together in Gilas. They were inseparable.

Friday evening however, they were playing for separate camps.

Ravena admitted that he never expected a shove to come from Pessumal during the NLEX Road Warriors’ clash with San Miguel Beermen.

In an off-ball situation, Pessumal charged at Ravena, sending the rookie down to the floor with 9:50 remaining in the final frame. He was then whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul, and Ravena sank one from the line.

“I did not expect that at all,” admitted Ravena after the match in which they lost, 98-109 — their third straight defeat after a 2-0 start. “But hopefully Von doesn’t take it personal.

“I’m just doing my job. They won the game.”

Ravena insisted that there wasn’t any physicality between him and Pessumal prior to that, but he thinks that his former Gilas teammate may have gotten irked by his staredown after blocking him on a fastbreak play early in the fourth.

“When that fastbreak happened — the same exact possession na I challenged him, I looked at him, and after that yun na yung nangyari,” said the 23-year-old guard. “But I never instigated something to provoke Von to do that.

“Probably nung tinignan ko siya.”

Moreover, the second overall pick of the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft felt that that incident “started all the commotions during the end game (laughs). Yun yung pinaka-una eh. And with that, the team got fired up and it worked for them.”

He may be right, for the game saw more skirmishes after that: from teammate Michael Miranda kicking Chris Ross to the groin, and with his head coach Yeng Guiao figuring in a heated verbal war also against Ross.

But then, Ravena made it clear that it was never a plan of his to put down somebody, especially someone like Pessumal who he sees as a brother for life.

“You know, Von and I, we go way back. Things like this hopefully don’t become too personal.

“I have no intention na ipapahiya yung tao or sasaktan mo yung tao. Wala namang ganun. Laro-laro lang,” said NLEX’s leading scorer.

It was somehow a night to remember for Ravena, but for all the wrong reasons. After Friday’s loss that sent their card to 2-3, the veteran internationalist now sees the need for him and the Road Warriors to push the panic button.

“‘Di na pwedeng sabihin palaging kailangan namin matuto eh. Pangatlong sunod na,” the second-generation cager expressed.

“Kailangan siguro naming umaksyon.”

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