The Philippine Women’s National Volleyball team put up a valiant stand but slowly crumbled in the face of the sheer brilliance of long-reigning queen Thailand, bidding its gold medal hopes farewell on Thursday night.
The Filipinas stood their ground and kept up with the Thais before an ecstatic home crowd inside the PhilSports Arena. Unfortunately, though, a superior endgame showing from the defensive champions resulted in a straight-set 16-25, 22-25, 32-34 loss for the host country in the 30th Southeast Asian Games.
The Philippine delegates traded punches in the second set and kept things interesting at 8-all. From there, Aby Maraño showcased her experience and dealt damage, buoying her team to an 11-9 cushion. Majoy Baron then uncorked a running hit that gave them their biggest lead at 12-9.
The Thais, though, remained unfazed. They tightened their defensive screws and knotted the count at 13. A long exchange of punches ensued from that point, until battle-tested hitter Wilavan Apinyapong caught fire.
Apinyapong shattered an 18-all lock and towed Thailand to a 21-18 edge. Maraño and Baron then put up the touches that whittled the deficit down to one at 20-21. Chatchu-on Moksri, though, nailed the differential hits that pulled the visitors out of danger for a two-sets-to-none buffer.
Then in the decisive third frame, Thailand dictated the tempo and sprinted to a commanding 24-19 advantage. But the Filipinas vaunted their fiery spirit and stayed within range of a stunner.
The troika of Maddie Madayag, Alyssa Valdez, and Jovelyn Gonzaga pulled the Philippines to as close as 22-24. Valdez then pummeled a thunderous cross-court hammer, before Gonzaga forged a deuce with a crowd-igniting off the block hit.
In the ensuing sequence, the Thais committed a costly attack line that gave the National a glimmer of hope with a 25-24 edge. Wilavan, however, responded with a crowd-silencing blow to bring things back to square one, 25-all.
In the frenetic situation, Pimpichaya Kokram and Valdez traded crucial blows as deadlock after deadlock ensued. Tied at 32, Kokram dealt the momentum-swinging hit, followed by Wilavan’s match-clinching hit.
Fresh off a heartbreaker to Tran Thi Thanh Thuy and the Vietnamese last Tuesday, the Nationals could not crack the winner’s circle. With a 0-2 slate, they have been relegated to the battle for third.
The Philippines shall take on Indonesia, which yielded to unbeaten Vietnam in heartwrenching 25-20, 14-25, 25-19, 18-25, 6-15 result, on December 7, Saturday at the same venue.
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