With its undisputed leader Tran Thi Thanh Thuy at the helm, Vietnam is undoubtedly a legitimate contender to 11-time champion Thailand’s title-retention bid in the Southeast Asian Games women’s volleyball competition.
But the Filipinas — who have dealt with a series of availability problems throughout the course of their buildup to the biennial meet — dragged the complete arsenal of the Vietnamese to the limit in their campaign opener on Tuesday evening.
Unfortunately, though, the Philippines lost steam and ran out of gas. And experience proved to be the difference, as stressed by perennial national team campaigner Alyssa Valdez.
“Kinulang, kinapos talaga kami sa dulo. We had a good fight from the first set to the fourth set,” recounted Valdez, who put up a double-double of 22 points and 13 excellent receptions. “But I guess experience will play a big role in the fifth set, and sa dami ng nilaro ng Vietnam for the longest time sa international competitions.”
The Philippine contingent still managed to wrap up the fourth frame to forge a decider. But the Vietnamese remained unfazed and imposed their will when it mattered most.
Vietnam utilized its vaunted net defense in the fifth set, mounting a wall that made scoring extremely difficult for the Philippine hitters, who were stymied on numerous occasions down the stretch.
Valdez, who was roofed by the Vietnamese in succession late in the rubber set, acknowledged that the tricolor squad could not help but feel out of sorts after falling short in the match.
After all, the stinging defeat pushed the Philippines in a precarious situation. The competition allows only the top two teams to battle for the elusive gold.
Still, the host team remains optimistic.
“We’re thinking positively naman sa game. Simula pa lang, we can’t drag ourselves down,” Valdez said. “One thing we’ve learned today is walang imposible. Kung sinong makakalaban namin, kung sino magbibigay ng buong puso sa laban, iyon siguro ‘yung mananalo.
“So going up against Thailand and in the future games, siguro ‘yun lang ‘yung imi-mindset namin — the attitude towards the game, the mental toughness talaga.
She then continued, “And siyempre para ‘to sa mga kababayan namin, na mabigyan namin sila ng magandang laro, and mabigyan namin ang coaches namin at bawat isa ng magandang laro. ‘Yun talaga ‘yung goal namin sa next game.”