KUALA LUMPUR: The Philippines’ quest for a podium finish ended on a heart-breaking note as it bowed to Vietnam, 27-25, 22-25, 20-25, 21-25, in the classification match of the 29th Southeast Asian Games women’s volleyball competition on Sunday at the MITEC Hall 11 here.
After roaring to a red-hot start, the Nationals lost control, allowing the more seasoned, more fluid Vietnamese to assert their dominance to formally clinch the bronze medal.
Jaja Santiago, Alyssa Valdez and Jovelyn Gonzaga engineered the assault, but their effort was futile in the crucial stretch of the fourth set where the Vietnamese turned a slim 8-6 lead at the end of the first technical timeout into a huge 20-14 advantage en route to the victory.
The 6-foot-5 Santiago delivered 17 attacks and three aces for 20 points while Valdez and Gonzaga chipped in 17 and 13 markers, respectively.
The Philippines was also heavily battered defensively as Doan Thi Xuan, Tran Thanh Thuy and skipper Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hoa hosted a block party, combining for 10 of the Vietnamese’s 14 total blocks.
Tran Thuy, the 19-year old sensation, finished with 22 kills for a total of 26 points while Ngoc Hoa, who campaigns professionally in Thailand, added 20 markers for the Vietnamese, the silver medalists in the previous SEA Games in Singapore.
“It shows that our experience and level of maturity in the international arena is not yet enough,” said head coach Francis Vicente, whose wards demolished Vietnam in four sets in the AVC Asian Senior Women’s Championship before dropping a sorry straight-set loss in the group stage of the biennial meet.
Vicente added that they may have failed to achieve their goal, but it should never serve as a hindrance to their mission of bringing the Philippines back to its lofty status in Southeast Asia.
“But this is not yet the end. Our quest for gold in the SEA Games will definitely not stop here. We will continue to work hard and do everything to reach our goal. We will not stop dreaming.”