The country’s victory against Hong Kong yesterday proved that we have the talent—but not the experience—to get back to the world stage

By Klyde Manansala | Photo from Asian Games website

Coming off back-to-back losses in their first Asian Games campaign in more than three decades of non-participation, the Philippine volleyball team bounced back big time and marked their first win in 36 years against Hong Kong, 25-18, 25-21, 25-22 to boost their chances of securing a quarterfinals berth.

The straight-sets win meant a lot. It was momentous for both the team’s presence in their bracket considering they were down 0-2 as well as for the future of the country’s current volleyball state.

Before traveling to Indonesia, Alyssa Valdez, Jia Morado, and the rest of the squad assembled for the 18th Asian Games were receptive to the idea that the odds are not in their favor given that the Philippines’ last exposure in the competition was back in 1982 where the Philippines wound up fifth. Before winning their last match against host country India, the Philippines first suffered straight-set losses in their first four games against Japan, China, South Korea, and North Korea. After that, the Philippines has not participated in the women’s volleyball tournament of the past nine Asian Games until this year.

“The talent is there, you all saw that we can play with them, but our inexperience playing together as a team told heavily in the end,“ Valdez told the Inquirer after their loss against Thailand

The Asian Games volleyball tournament has since been dominated by powerhouse teams such as South Korea, Japan, Thailand, and China—and on their return, the Philippines’ inexperience showed as they suffered lopsided losses from to Thailand and Japan. But heading into their pivotal fight against Hong Kong—whom they also beat in last year’s AVC Asian Senior Women’s Championship—the team knew they had the edge. Facing super teams first was also a great opportunity to adjust to the international stage and pick up lessons throughout their match.

One thing stood out and was certain in the Philippines’ first two setbacks: The volleyball giants of Asia have programs that shape them as the well-refined team they are today. As for the Philippines, the team’s preparation was shaky, similar to what the men’s basketball team had gone through—lost players to injury, switched coaches, and very limited preparation at their camp in Japan.

But just two games in before dominating Hong Kong, the Philippine volleyball team seemed to learned their lessons quickly. In their fight against the Thais, the Pinays led by as much as seven points in the first set, but the team couldn’t sustain their 9-2 start as the former turned the tables around. As apparent as it was, the lack of consistency cost them their games against the Thais and the Japanese. They also had a lot of service errors, shaky receptions, and no answers to the Thai defense.

“Before flying to Jakarta, the team faced criticisms from people saying their chances of winning or even landing a podium finish were far from happening. But what many people don’t realize is that the country’s return to the Asian Games is just the first step towards the goal of leaving a mark in the international stage in the coming years

Not wanting to repeat the same mistakes, the team started and finished strong with a three-set victory over Hong Kong. The Hong Kong nationals were knocking on the Philippines’ doors late in the second and third sets, but the team, led by Valdez and Jaja Santiago who were in their winning form, unloaded 45 kills and took advantage of the opposing team’s unstable reception as they fired 11 aces. With consistency, the team were able to cruise to the victory.

Before flying to Jakarta, the team faced criticisms from people saying their chances of winning or even landing a podium finish were far from happening. But what many people don’t realize is that the country’s return to the Asian Games is just the first step towards the goal of leaving a mark in the international stage in the coming years—with the team eyeing a finish in the upcoming SEA Games.

“Before traveling to Indonesia, Alyssa Valdez, Jia Morado, and the rest of the squad assembled for the 18th Asian Games were receptive to the idea that the odds are not in their favor given that the Philippines’ last exposure in the competition was back in 1982 where the Philippines wound up fifth

“The talent is there, you all saw that we can play with them, but our inexperience playing together as a team told heavily in the end,“ Valdez told the Inquirer after their loss against Thailand.

Head coach Shaq delos Santos also kept an optimistic mindset despite the losses they endured in the country’s long-awaited return to the international stage.

“This is a good experience for us because we know we can beat Thailand, but we’re still in the process of rebuilding and hopefully, our performance improves as we go along,“ delos Santos told in the same interview.

The Philippine women’s volleyball team’s grit and consistency will once again be put to the test as another tough task from host country Indonesia, powered by hard-hitter Aprilia Manganang, awaits them this Saturday.