KUALA LUMPUR: The Philippines absorbed yet another sorry loss, this time to reigning champion Thailand, 21-25, 17-25, 17-25, in the semifinals of the 29th Southeast Asian Games women’s volleyball tournament Saturday at the MITEC Hall 11 here.
Jaja Santiago and Alyssa Valdez provided the spark, but the Nationals simply couldn’t handle the stronger, more experienced, Thai squad that is fresh from a successful stint in the FIVB World Grand Prix and the AVC Asian Senior Women’s Championship.
With the setback, the Nationals kissed their chances for gold medal goodbye and were relegated to the battle for bronze medal against Vietnam, which suffered a 25-18, 21-25, 27-29, 25-15, 13-15 setback to Indonesia in the other semifinal pairing.
Match is set on Sunday at 10 am with the Vietnamese coming in as heavy favorites after hammering a straight-set conquest of the Filipinos in the group stage Thursday.
The 21-year old Santiago delivered 10 kills, four aces and a block for 15 points while Valdez chipped in 10 markers for the Philippines, which gamely challenged 12-time SEA Games gold medalist Thailand in the first set before losing control in the second and third sets.
“Thailand is a veteran team that plays at a very high level,” said head coach Francis Vicente, noting the disparity in the error department where the Thais committed only 11 while the Philippines had 18.
“This game shows that our volleyball program still has a long way to go. We still have a lot to learn and need more international exposure.”
No less than Department of Foreign Affairs Sec. Alan Peter Cayetano was in attendance to extend his support and talk to the players after the match.
An avid volleyball supporter who was appointed as chairman of the organizing committee of the 30th Southeast Asian Games in 2019, Cayetano vowed to support the training and international exposure of the national women’s volleyball team.
“This is just the start,” Cayetano told members of the team. “After this, you will just take a brief rest and start training again for other international competitions. I am behind you all the way.”
Team captain Pleumjit Thinkaow and Kokram Pimpichaya registered 13 markers apiece for Thailand, which also had more attacks, 43-34, and blocks, 7-3, than the Filipinos.