Hurdling one Southeast Asian neighbor yesterday, the Philippines failed to summon the same magic from yesterday and fell to powerhouse Thailand in straight sets, 21-25, 14-25, 20-25, at the Alonte Sports Arena in Biñan, Laguna.
Drawing energy and resilience from the near 2000-strong crowd, the hosts kept pace with 12-time SEA Games champions in the first set. An Aby Maraño block on Kongyot Ajcharaporn even pushed the Philippines to a short-lived 18-17 lead and forced a Thailand timeout. The Thais took control from there, going on a 5-0 rampage. The Philippines managed one last push, coming within two points, 21-23, but lucky breaks fell Thailand’s way in the end. A lucky kick-save from Thailand’s libero fell into the Philippines’ court in the following point, setting up Thailand’s set-clinching combination play.
The visitors had their world-class ball control and attacking engine going in the second set. In turn, the Philippines’ own offense was stifled and had no response when Thailand scored four straight points and took a 15-10 lead. The Nationals managed just four points after that slump and fell quickly into the third frame.
Shifting their lineup, the Philippines mustered a promising start to the third set. Jaja Santiago, switching positions with Aby Maraño, scored on back-to-back hits and gave the Philippines a 6-5 lead. Thailand, however, responded quickly and decisively. The visitors put their full arsenal of combination plays and quick attacks on display, running off to a 16-11 gap. Key substitutions not only revamped the Philppines’ play, but also woke a silent crowd. The Philippines managed one last run, coming within one, 17-18, after an Alyssa Valdez smash. The Thais then shut the door on their hosts. Combination after combination hit the Philippines’ defense hard and allowed Thailand to climb ahead 23-18 and comfortably take the match.
“Siyempre ganyan talaga, minsan mananalo ka and minsan matatalo ka. But it’s how you play the game. Nakikita ko naman andon pa rin ang puso kaya lang ‘yun nga. Siguro ‘yung determination ganoon unit, bumibitaw. Hindi lang tayo pinalad,” admitted National Team head coach Francis Vicente.
Opposite hitter Jovelyn Gonzaga led the Philippines with 11 points, while Alyssa Valdez added nine.
Thailand’s young open hitters Kongyot Ajcharaporn and Moksri Chachu-on each provided 17 points.
The Philippines moves on to the classification phase for places 5th-8th. They take on Chinese Taipei tomorrow.
Thailand (3) – Ajcharaporn 17, Chachu-on 17, Wilavan 13, Hattaya 5, Jarasporn 2, Nootsara 1, Pleumjit 1, Piyanut (L)
Philippines (0) – Gonzaga 11, Valdez 9, Santiago 6, Maraño 3, Ortiz 2, Reyes 2, Moline 2, Fajardo 1, Dimaculangan 0, Pontillas 0, Macandili (L)