In their first match of the games, the Philippine Sirens faced a Malaysian squad that won the bronze medal during Women’s Water Polo’s debut in the 26th SEA Games in Palembang, Indonesia.
While the Sirens lacked international exposure as this is their first time to compete in the SEA Games, its core players have been playing the sport for five, some even ten years now.
Team co-captain Krystal Rae Dela Cruz, the oldest member of the team at 29 years old, got things started with a counter-attack goal that put the Sirens ahead late in the first quarter. After a goal from Malaysia’s center forward, Carla Beatriz Grabador extended the Sirens’ lead courtesy of a penalty shot to end the first period at 2-1.
Grabador again scored for the Sirens to open the second period after catching the goalkeeper off guard with a lob shot. Malaysia had an answer a few moments after, creating an opportunity by getting the Sirens’ Dara Clariza Evangelista excluded temporarily. It was the Sirens, though, that had the last say in the period as Christine Grace Hipol scored after a timeout.
Everything seemed to sail smoothly for the Sirens during the first half and they were able to maintain the two-goal lead through the third period, after goals from Dela Cruz and Grabador matched the two goals from Malaysia.
With high hopes, the Sirens entered the payoff period needing only to hold on to their lead. The Malaysians, however, showed the Sirens why they won the bronze in the previous SEA Games by blanking the Sirens the entire period and punished the Sirens’ goalkeeper Kunti Dasi Tibby for not paying full attention to Malaysia’s long distance scorers. The game would end 7-6 in favor of Malaysia.
All fourth period long, it was clear that the Sirens lacked experience to handle pressure-packed situations and the Malaysians pounced on this opportunity.
The Sirens return to the pool this Saturday with a game against defending champions Singapore.
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