A deflating loss to Vietnam in its 30th Southeast Asian Games opener on Tuesday put the Philippines’ hopes of a gold medal in peril.
With the single-round format in full effect, the match against Thailand — the long-reigning queen of Southeast Asia — on Thursday at 6:00 p.m. is now a must-win for the tricolor squad.
Despite the stakes, though, the Filipinas have more than winning in mind when they square off against the Thais on the Taraflex.
“Susulitin namin ‘yung laban namin sa Thailand kasi siyempre, kung last playing year na rin nila Pleumjit [Thinkaow], Nootsara [Tomkom] and Wilavan [Apinyapong], why not makipagbakbakan kami doon?” the National team skipper Maraño bared.
Thinkaow, Tomkom, and Apinyapong are legends, not just in Thailand but also around the world. The triumvirate have been the backbone of the World Grand Prix regular’s dominance for over a decade.
With a towering presence at the middle in Thinkaow who neutralizes the firepower of opposing spikers; a surgical setter in Tomkom who can make life above the net easy for her attackers; and a reliable hitter in Apinyapong who’s more than willing to show the way in times of distress, Thailand has made the region its undisputed territory.
And so, it’s easy to understand why the Filipinas — who are bent on breaking a 14-year medal drought — are raring to prove their worth against the powerhouse Thailand.
As Maraño put it, “Para lang at least matapos man ‘yung career nila, tumatak man lang sa isip nila na, etong mga players ng Pilipinas, nag-improve na ‘to from the first time na nakita namin silang maglaro ng volleyball since 2015 sa SEA Games.”
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