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AVC U23 Day 5 Roundup: On Meaningful Matches



Yesterday was the last round of classification matches in the inaugural AVC U23 tournament, as well as some jockeying for position as the tournament heads into its knockout phase.

We saw definite signs of fatigue from some teams, while others were able to reap the benefits of either a lucky draw in the initial group phase, or just being waist-deep in talent. If there’s an important takeaway from this, is that international tournaments are sprints and not marathons. When one is playing on foreign soil, they’re definitely going to need all the talent they have in order to make it through a highly-competitive tournament. To illustrate, let’s run through yesterday’s volleyball action.



AVCU23 UZBvsMAC Day 5-0225

In this match, the Uzbekistanis had what the Macanese sorely lacked. Uzbekistan had an array of tall ladies that can definitely put a dent on the floor with their powerful spikes. However, they have been playing the entire tournament without a Libero and it seemed that none of their players have any idea what to do when they rotate to the back row. They’re often caught flat-footed and unable to reach for a dig or reception that flies out of their lengthy arms. Their service reception pattern doesn’t lend itself to a smooth defense-offense transition, which often leads to a lot of clunky possessions.

Macau, on the other hand, has a scrappy bunch of vertically-challenged players. What they lack in height and skill, they make up for it with sheer hustle and energy. In spite of this, they only have a limited range of weapons to fire in offense, and it doesn’t help that their service reception has been inconsistent throughout the tournament.

It was incredibly entertaining to see Uzbekistan’s taller players get stuffed at the net by the shorter Macau blockers. Macau was able to scrape by the lumbering Uzbekistan defense with well-placed shots. But in the end, Uzbekistan’s height took its toll and forced Macau into a pile unforced errors. Macau didn’t do itself any favors as well for they gave up way too many aces which can be directly attributed to their lack of focus to be consistent with their receptions.

Macau team captain Leong On Leng put together one of the tournament’s best stat lines with 25 points off 21 attacks, 2 blocks, 2 aces, 13 excellent digs and 7 excellent receptions. Although her effort wasn’t enough to lift her team over Uzbekistan, who managed to conjure double-digit performances from four of its players.

The win earned Uzbekistan the right to face Kazakhstan in the battle for ninth place this Friday while Macau will fight to stay off the bottom part of the rankings when it shall face another winless team in Maldives tomorrow.



AVCU23 CHNvsTHA Day 5-0329

This match was expected to be more competitive than what actually transpired that day. Both teams have been knocking each other out of international tournaments for the better part of the last decade, with Thailand recently getting the best of China in the Women’s Seniors department. Three players on Thailand’s current roster had substantial runs with their Seniors team while China’s roster consists mainly of young players with no international experience prior to the tournament.

Thailand has been utilizing their top players way too much considering they’ve only had one tough match before they faced China. In their match last Monday, India pounced on them and it took a mighty effort from the Thais to break away in each of those three sets.

Meanwhile, China had the opportunity to save its players since they were bracketed in the first classification phase with two severely smaller and less skilled teams in India and Maldives. The Chinese had a chance to rest and looked fresher as they powered through a determined Korea side last Monday and went on to outshine Thailand last Tuesday.

The Thais just weren’t on their game when their hitters had several chances to go for big hits, but opted to pull back and go for placement shots. Likewise, their normally treacherous net and back row defense was often caught off-guard and mistimed.

The match results definitely surprised the Chinese side who revealed in the post-match presser that they expected more of a fight than what they got considering how deep Thailand’s talent pool is.

Most likely, Thailand looked at their situation within their group. Given that they were already assured of a top two spot in Group F regardless if they won or lost, the Thais would have to face either Iran or the Philippines this coming Thursday. Iran and the Philippines were surely going to end up as the bottom two teams in Group E. Against either team, Thailand has a definite advantage and might take the match as an opportunity to rest their key players and at the same time, to avoid being scouted comprehensively by the Chinese who Thailand may have to go through in the latter parts of the tournament.

No matter the reason, the match was definitely a no-bearing game for Thailand so it was a sensible move not to go all-out immediately. The odds are surely on Thailand moving past Iran and China will most likely defeat the Philippines tomorrow. So, the hyper-competitive China-Thailand match everyone was expecting may have to wait until Saturday when the stakes are higher.


MATCH 3: JAPAN ZOOMS PAST IRAN 25-13, 25-7, 25-15

AVCU23 JPNsIRI Day 5-0362

Japan is a perfect example of the aforementioned depth that the elite teams in this tournament have. They played a totally different starting six than they fielded against the Philippines and were still able to execute their helter-skelter pace perfectly. Iran, however, didn’t have the luxury of a deep bench, causing fatigue to seep into their star players who tried their best to keep up against Japan.

Japan pulled impressive performances from its outside hitters in Inoue Arisa and Higane Minami. The combo went for 18 and 17 points respectively. Interestingly, both hitters barely played in their first two matches and were even fielded late during their match against the Philippines. Also, the Japanese have been able to rest their best players, Muranaga Nao, Sakamoto Nanaka, Imamura Yuka, and Mabashi Kaori, who should be fresh and ready to go for the last stretch of the tournament.

On the other hand, Iran’s best players are probably gasping for breath heading into the mid-tournament break. Their team captain, Mahsa Saberi, was an all-around beast in the initial stages of the tournament but she looked incredibly sluggish against Japan. The entire team, as a matter of fact, moved like they were playing on quick sand and should greatly benefit from their rest day.

Japan will face India tomorrow while Iran has Thailand up on its sleeve.


KOREA OUSTS PESKY INDIA 25-18, 25-17, 25-11.


AVCU23 KORsIND Day 5-0413

The Koreans have been a pleasure to watch all tournament long as they’ve played like a race car stuck on fifth gear. The Koreans came out to play no matter who they face and out of their fellow best Asian teams, they might have been the unluckiest in their draw of opponents, having two heartbreaking five-set losses against Thailand and China.

India pulled out all the breaks in attacking and blocking in the first set, but the Koreans quickly found a way around India’s wall as they played an incredibly efficient brand of volleyball. Korea’s open hitter Lee Soyoung continued her impeccable tournament run, topping all scorers with 19 points off 14 attacks, 4 aces and 1 block. She also contributed defensively with 4 digs and 7 excellent receptions which padded her case for tournament MVP if there were such an award.

Even after a splendid match against India, they still haven’t earned a break as they’ll have to takedown a scrappy Chinese Taipei team tomorrow to move on to the Top 4. But they definitely have the firepower to move past the Republic of China and it just remains to be seen when will fatigue hit this team. India, on the other hand, has the tough challenge of being the first to take down the unbeaten Japanese spikers.


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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Calvin Abueva rejuvenated with return of physical play: ‘Masarap maglaro’



Photo by PBA Images

For Calvin Abueva, it feels great to play in the PBA nowadays.

The Beast, who has always been known as one of the league’s most physical players since entering in 2012, was all praises for the way the officiating has changed this 43rd season — by just letting all the players play.

“Mas gumanda yung tawagan ngayon, naging physical nga. Naging exciting para sa mga tao, mas marami na nanonood ngayon eh,” said Abueva moments after their 97-83 victory over the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Sunday night.

As has been said many times, physicality had become something controlled over the last two years. Abueva knows it too well, having been a casualty, as he has paid a bevy of penalties during that time.

And now that it is a thing of the past, the 6-foot-2 bruiser feels much better, knowing that he can display his brand of basketball once more.

“Masarap maglaro, talagang pisikalan,” said the 29-year-old forward from Angeles, Pampanga. “Siyempre makikita naman natin kung sinasadya o hindi, basta katawan lang.

“Pisikal. Yun yung magandang laro di ba?”

Aside from the comeback of physicality, what makes Abueva beam even more is the way the Aces have been playing in the 2018 Philippine Cup. After a 0-2 start in the tourney, they have now booked their third straight win.

“Nung 2017 parang nilubog na namin yung losing streak namin doon. Ito 2018 na at panibagong destination na naman yung ina-ano namin,” said Abueva, who had nine points, nine rebounds, and five assists against Ginebra.

“Sustain muna namin ‘to… Sana magtuloy-tuloy ‘tong winning streak namin.”

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Alaska takes advantage of Greg Slaughter’s absence



For the streaking Alaska Aces, their stunning 97-83 victory over the favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on Sunday night was partly made possible by the absence of one key player: seven-foot behemoth Greg Slaughter.

The 28-year-old center, who was averaging 20.67 points and 10.3 rebounds prior to Sunday, did not play against the Aces due to a hamstring injury. How he incurred the injury has yet to be determined.

“There’s a small person named Greg Slaughter who didn’t play; I think he has an impact on the game,” quipped coach Alex Compton after the match.

“[They missed] a guy who I think is gonna win an MVP soon in Greg Slaughter.

“Sometimes dito sa liga natin, you have to take advantage when opportunities come your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt [though],” added Compton.

With Slaughter out of the way, the Aces’ big men feasted.

Vic Manuel top-billed with 18 points and five rebounds, and elder statesman Sonny Thoss turned back the clock with a 17-point, four-rebound outing.

“Malaking bonus na rin sa amin, kasi wala nga si Greg kaya nakuha namin yung panalo,” said Manuel.

“Yeah it definitely helped,” added the six-foot-seven Thoss, who shot 6-of-12 from the floor and made four of his freebies.

“He’s a big guy, he’s a big presence inside so it took one big guy off our shoulder.”

Slaughter was approached and asked by scribes regarding his injury, but he was not in the mood to comment. No one can blame him, though, since the Barangay have slipped to their second straight defeat after a 2-0 start.

“I’m always there in practice, going over our gameplans. But it’s better if you ask our PT,” he said.

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Alaska completes turnaround at Greg Slaughter-less Ginebra’s expense



Photo by PBA Images

A strong second half surge was all the Alaska Aces needed to turn back the heavily-favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 97-83, and book their third straight victory, Sunday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

The Aces, who have yet to lose this 2018, have now improved to 3-2. Meanwhile, the Barangay absorbed their second straight loss and have dropped to 2-2.

“I was telling the guys na parang ang dami nating iniisip, hindi natin ginagawa yung ginagawa natin noong nakaraang dalawang linggo. Sabi ko relax lang tayo,” said coach Alex Compton, sharing what he told his wards that sparked the win.

Vic Manuel led the Milkmen with 18 points and five rebounds. Sonny Thoss turned back the clock as he made 17 markers on 6-of-12 shooting, while Chris Banchero supplied 14 points, six assists, and five rebounds.

The Aces were trailing by eight, 36-44 at the half, but it became a different ball game come the third chapter as they outscored the Gin Kings, 37 to 19, to erect a favorable 73-63 cushion heading into the game’s final 12 minutes.

From there, Alaska kept their foot on the gas to sustain their lead, which grew to as much as 18, 85-67, after their 6-0 spree — punctuated by Banchero’s lay-up plus a foul — with 6:14 remaining in the final frame.

Ginebra still tried to make one last push as they inched within 10, 75-85, but baskets by Thoss and Kevin Racal propelled Alaska to an 89-75 lead with 3:42 left to play — more than enough to knock out their counterparts.

“I was glad to come away with the win,” added Compton. “Sometimes, we have to take advantage of opportunities coming your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt but when two number one picks on the other team aren’t playing… There.”

Jvee Casio had 13 markers for Alaska, while Calvin Abueva nearly had a double-double of nine points and nine boards along with five assists in 20 minutes.

Aljon Mariano had 15 points, nine rebounds, and three dimes for Ginebra, who — despite having Sol Mercado back in the fold after ankle issues — missed the services of Joe Devance and Greg Slaughter due to injuries.

Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson, and Kevin Ferrer each scored 12 for the Barangay, with Thompson adding five assists. The trio combined for 15 of Ginebra’s 43 rebounds.

Alaska will aim to extend their streak versus the Blackwater Elite on Saturday, January 27 at 4:30 PM, while Ginebra will look to end their slump against the Phoenix Fuel Masters on Friday, January 26 at 7:00 PM. Both games are at SMART Araneta Coliseum.

The Scores:

Alaska 97 — Manuel 18, Thoss 17, Banchero 14, Casio 13, Abueva 9, Teng 9, Cruz 5, Enciso 3, Potts 3, Exciminiano 2, Magat 2, Racal 2, J. Pascual 0.

Ginebra 83 — Mariano 15, J. Aguilar 12, Ferrer 12, Thompson 12, Caguioa 8, Cruz 8, R. Aguilar 5, Tenorio 5, Mercado 2, Taha 2, Wilson 2, Jamito 0.

Quarterscores: 26-23, 36-44, 73-63, 97-83.

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Frustrated Jared Dillinger admits ‘he’s getting sick’ of Meralco’s bad PH Cup runs



It’s no secret that the Meralco Bolts have struggled in the Philippine Cup for the last three years. During the last two seasons, the eight-year-old franchise’s win-loss tally is four wins and 18 losses.

And in the 2018 edition, the narrative has been the same, with little to no hope of it turning the other way around.

The Bolts bowed to the TNT Katropa, 99-81, Sunday night — their third straight defeat after winning over Blackwater Elite in their opener last December. If things continue as they are, it looks like another poor all-Filipino tilt run is looming.

“We’re 1-3 and there’s nothing to be happy about,” said Jared Dillinger, who had 14 points and five caroms in the match at Ynares Center in Antipolo. “It’s a long season though… We [shouldn’t] panic but it’s not fun right now.

“The Philippine Cup has been our Achilles heel and every damn Philippine Cup we get our ass kicked. I’m getting sick of it.”

In this game, Meralco missed the services of top forwards Ranidel De Ocampo and Cliff Hodge due to injuries. But for Dillinger, those issues shouldn’t be excuses.

“When you get two guys like Ranidel and Cliff out, as a team, that’s the opportunity for the guys below them to step up,” asserted Dillinger, who has been with the franchise since 2013.

“It doesn’t have to mean scoring, getting the assists or rebound, it’s just making the right play, being smart.”

Asked what went wrong in this particular loss versus their sister team, where they shot just 39.2 percent from the floor and had committed 17 turnovers, the 10-year veteran lamented the poor effort that the Bolts put up.

“TNT didn’t do anything much, given that they played well. But they didn’t have any secret schemes against us. They just passed the ball around, and they got open shots,” added the 10-year pro, as TNT made 23 assists and shot 18 triples.

“Our effort wasn’t there. We got to put up the intensity cause it sucks right now.”

Meralco have a chance to end their slump against the Kia Picanto this Wednesday. Dillinger sees it as a do-or-die affair, warning that it will be a grind-out affair knowing that the Picanto is coming off a skid-ending win over Rain or Shine.

Do-or-die ’cause that’s gonna be a playoff game. Thank God they beat Rain or Shine ’cause you don’t want to be that one team that gives the win to a 0-16 [team]. You don’t want to play teams like that,” stressed the all-around forward.

“Nothing to take away from Kia though. It’s gonna be tough.”

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