The Philippines fought for dear life against Indonesia in the 30th Southeast Asian Games battle for third, surging back from a one-set deficit and forging a decisive fifth set. But the Filipinas fell just a point short of the podium, kissing their bronze medal hopes farewell.
Throughout the furious comeback, though, Alyssa Valdez was conspicuously kept on the sidelines. This, even though she put up 14 points in the first three sets.
Asked for an explanation, national team head coach Shaq Delos Santos revealed that it was all part of their comeback ploy.
“For us kasi, ako… Especially ako kasi ako ang naga-ano, ‘di naman totally dahil hindi gagamitin or what pero ‘yung timing, ‘yun, diskarte. Siguro ‘yung sitwasyon lang din na siyempre may nagi-step up din, merong ibang teammate niya na nagiging okay,” he explained.
He then continued, “Pero sa amin, hindi naman na hindi namin ano sila na gagamitin or what, walang ano kami doon. Kasi alam nila kung ano ang diskarte namin ire-respect nila and ganoon din kami. Understanding talaga.
“But it doesn’t mean na dahil hindi naglaro, hindi namin sila gustong gamitin. Hundred-percent gusto namin silang gamitin.”
For her part, Valdez respects the coaches’ decision. That her sisters-in-arms were able to put up a gallant stand for flag and country leaves her content.
“It’s the decision of our coaches naman. Feeling ko mas nakikita nila kung ano ‘yung mga kailangan ng team. So ‘yun ‘yung best decision na nangyari,” she said.
“Maganda rin naman hanggang dulo, lumaban din naman ‘yung team. Nanghihinayang siyempre, when you’re outside, you can’t contribute anything,” the five-time V-League MVP added.
“You really just have to pray and really believe. ‘Yun lang, but honestly, really happy sa performances ng lahat.”
In order to keep fighting, Delos Santos rejigged his rotation. He deployed the quartet of Mika Reyes, Eya Laure, Rhea Dimaculangan and Jovelyn Gonzaga from the bench, fielding in starters Ces Molina and Majoy Baron alongside them.
The bench mob did wonders for the Philippines, so much so that the Nationals dictated the tempo in the fourth set. This paved the way for a decisive fifth frame, where they sprinted to match point following Molina’s hit, 14-12.
The comeback was just a point away from completion. But the Indonesians ripped a page out of the Philippines’ resurgence, uncorking a four-point swing that snatched the bronze medal from the Filipinas’ grip.
Having seen their fate sealed in such manner, Valdez was heartbroken. But she has no doubt that this will make the Nationals a better team in the long run.
“It’s heartbreaking. It’s really heartbreaking, really frustrating. But I think, sabi nga nila sa loob kanina, if it’s not for us, if it’s not our time, it’s not our time,” Valdez bared.
“One thing lang na napag-usapan namin ay kung ano ‘yung mga kailangan pa naming i-improve, ano pa ‘yung kailangan naming baguhin para mas gumanda ‘yung sistema namin as a team.”