Valdez & Co. tackle tough Japan Monday
The odds were already stacked against the hastily formed Philippine squad in the Asian Women’s Under-23 Volleyball Championship.
It only gets tougher for the Filipinos Monday as they square off with powerhouse Japan at the start of the second round at Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
Assembled just three weeks ago, the Filipinos hope for a giant-size upset against a Japanese side that swept Pool C in the 4:15 p.m. match aired live on TV5.
The Filipinos reached the next stage after splitting their two games in Pool A. The decisive win came as the hosts hammered out a straight-set conquest of Kazakhstan last Saturday before a boisterous crowd of 4,000.
Iran overcame Kazakhstan, 25-20, 18-25, 25-19, 14-25, 15-13, yesterday to clinch top spot in Pool A.
The Filipinos are now bunched with Iran, Chinese Taipei and Japan in the second classification phase, needing two wins to assure themselves of a place in the knockout stage. The result against Iran will be carried over.
Philippine coach Roger Gorayeb admitted getting past Japan and Chinese-Taipei will be an uphill climb.
“We didn’t play well last Friday but we improved against Kazakhstan,” said Gorayeb. “It will be a very tough match for us [against Japan]. What I’m hoping is for the team to play at a high level. It’s hard to expect a win since this team didn’t have ideal preparations.”
Ateneo star Alyssa Valdez is expected to carry the PH volleybelles, after averaging 25 points in pool play, while the statuesque Jaja Santiago will be counted upon to anchor the defense at the net. Libero Christine Agno also bounced back from a so-so showing against Iran with superb court coverage in the Kazakhstan win.
Limiting errors was also key for the Filipinos who had 40 against Iran, hastening their defeat.
Although not as tall as the other teams in the tournament, the Japanese flashed superior skills in wins over Maldives and Chinese-Taipei. They did show some signs of vulnerability against the Taiwanese, losing the first set before rolling to a 24-26, 26-24, 25-23, 25-10 win last Saturday.
Also clinching their place in the next round are China and India from Pool B and South Korea and Thailand from Pool D.
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