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SEA Games: PH dethrones Thailand to reach men’s volleyball finals

By Betheena Unite

After 42 years, the Philippine men’s volleyball team will advance to the finals of the Southeast Asian Games after dethroning Thailand in five epic sets, 17-25, 25-20, 23-25, 27-25, 17-15 Sunday at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.

The Philippine men's volleyball team prevailed against defending champion Thailand in five sets, 17-25, 25-20, 23-25, 27-25, 17-15 (MB File photo / Alvin Kasiban)

The Philippine men’s volleyball team prevailed against defending champion Thailand in five sets, 17-25, 25-20, 23-25, 27-25, 17-15 (MB File photo / Alvin Kasiban)

Down one set, the Nationals found themselves in a 21-24 disadvantage over the defending champions in the fourth frame. But the gutsy Filipinos started to rally back after a Bryan Bagunas attack to save one match point, 24-22.

The Philippines followed it up with a block point before forcing an error from Thailand to force a 24-all deadlock before taking away the set.

Picking up from where they left off, the nationals made Thailand worked for every point and managed to keep the match tight. But the defending champions threatened and got into the match point first, 14-13, only to commit a service error to extend the match at 14-all.

The Filipino spikers used two-straight points off a block point and a strong Bagunas hit, sealing the match at 17-15 to book a finals berth and break the country’s four-decade drought.

“Sobrang saya. Sobrang hindi maipaliwanag yung nararamdaman ko kasi, yun nga, nakuha namin yung panalo ngayon and sure silver na kami pero kailangan pa rin naming magtrabaho para sa championship,” national team head coach Dante Alinsunurin said.

Bagunas, Mark Espejo, and Kim Malabunga powered the Philippines with 27, 20, and 14 points to end the reign of the winningest team in SEA Games men’s volleyball.

The pivotal fourth set proved to be a test of character for the team as its top scorers in the game almost thought it would slip away from them.

“Kanina dasal lang kami nang dasal nung 4th set. Kanina after ng game hindi talaga ako makapaniwala, as in kinakagat ko na sarili ko,” said Rex Intal, who saw action for the first time and tallied for six markers.

“Sobrang intense, sobrang hindi mo ma-explain kung ano yung nangyari kanina kasi yung fourth set patalo na talaga kami pero hindi kami bumitaw,” Malabunga, who had six blocks in the game, said.

For the team’s top gunners, the match and the victory over Thailand was something to be proud of.

“Sobrang mahalaga ‘tong game na ‘to sa’min. Sobrang nakaka-proud kasi ilang years na silang nagcha-champion yung tapos ito tinalo namin sila. Doon lumabas yung skills at composure namin, e. Sobrang saya, hindi namin ma-explain,” Bagunas said.

“Talo kami nung first set pero nakabawi naman. Lalo nung fourth set, ako kasi nagse-serve nun, e. Hindi ko alam kung ija-jump serve ko o ifo-float ko na lang. Sabi ko, ifo-float ko na lang, tiwala na lang sa isa’t isa. As in kinakabahan ako sa loob ng court nun,” Espejo said.

The nationals unleashed 16 blocks against Thailand’s nine to make up for their lackluster defense in their previous games.

Amorntep Konhan and Kissada Nilsawai led Thailand’s attack with 20 and 16 points, respectively.

The Philippine team will face Indonesia in the finals for the gold medal on Tuesday.

Source: Manila Bulletin

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