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Japan coach liked the challenge of facing Valdez, Santiago

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Alyssa Valdez and Jaja Santiago have been the Philippine team’s main guns since the start of the 1st Asian U23 Women’s Volleyball Championship. Initially, the country’s unpredictability to most teams was a huge advantage for the two stalwarts. However, facing a world-class team like Japan saw the duo contained and rendered ineffective for long stretches.

Being one of the best teams in the world, Japan came completely prepared for the team as they studied every little detail from the team. Their scouting report on Valdez and Santiago proved to be valuable as they uncovered their flaws and rendered them ineffective in key moments during the match.

“We played great against the Philippines and we really prepared long to this match because number two [Valdez] and number three [Santiago] are very good challenges for the team,” said Japan head coach Kiyoshi Abo through a translator. “So we exposed them to the international style of play.”

In yesterday’s straight sets setback against Japan, Valdez only managed to score 15 points, her lowest output so far in the tournament, while Santiago followed up with 7 points.

On the other hand, Japan displayed a balanced attack as six players managed to score more than 5 points. Misaki Yamauchi led the way with 9 points while Kaori Mabashi followed up with 8 points.

“The Philippines is very interesting. Now, they can match up against other countries, and so I said to the team that we have a good challenge,” Abo added.

Despite another defeat to one of Asia’s strongest squads, the Philippine team like its experience so far in the international stage as they quickly learned a lot of lessons along the way.

“All I can say is that we’re very lucky that the Philippines was able to play against Japan. They’re well-experienced in terms [of playing] in the international level,” Valdez added. “Super happy kami na nakalaro namin sila and we really learned a lot from them.”

And more than just a learning experience, no one is happier at the moment than PH U23 coach Roger Gorayeb. Even he admitted that merely facing Japan made him wish that they could battle each other often so that his team can learn new things and gain experiences faster.

“Like Alyssa said, we are very happy to play with Japan. It’s an honor for us to play them. We learned a lot playing against them,” Gorayeb added. “They’re tall and very fast. My only wish is that we can play like them in the near future. How I wish we can play against them everyday so we can learn everyday.”

With another game in the bag, the Philippines will now face Chinese Taipei for their next game today, 7:00 pm, at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City. The game will be televised live on Aksyon TV.

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