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U-23 Azkals open bid; netballers fall

/ 01:07 AM June 01, 2015

SINGAPORE—The Philippines’ Southeast Asian Games campaign got off to a bad start Sunday as the women’s netball team took a 62-22 whipping from Thailand at OCBC Arena inside the national sports center of this cosmopolitan city state.

The first to get going for Team Philippines, the jittery netballers buckled under pressure. It was the team’s first ever game in a sport it is playing in a tournament for the first time.

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“We didn’t know what to expect, to be honest,” said the PH team’s British coach Fransien Howarth. “This is their first-ever real game and there is some nerves involved.

“But overall, they could have played better,” added Howarth, who is a teacher at an international school in Manila.

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The loss failed to dampen the spirits of the Filipino contingent here which is expected to rally behind the under-23 Azkals as they begin their campaign at 8:30 tonight against host Singapore at Jalan Besar Stadium.

PH coach Marlon Maro said he is confident of their chances against the Singaporeans after watching them play during a tournament in Brunei recently.

“They have good defense but they’re not a dominant team,” said Maro, whose team arrived here on May 26 and has been practicing daily at Serangoon Stadium.

Maro said the Philippines will try to take advantage of what many felt is a weaker Group A, where Indonesia appears as the top team. The other squads in the PH group are Burma (Myanmar) and Cambodia.

Defending champion Thailand, which opened its campaign with a 6-0 rout of Laos Saturday, heads Group B which is also made up of Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Timor Leste. Vietnam also whipped Brunei, by the same score Saturday.

“Our goal here is to make the semifinals,” said Maro, who was part of the last PH team that reached the SEA Games semifinals, back in 1991.

The national booters will miss seven of the country’s top U-23 players who were tapped for the seniors team that is preparing for a World Cup qualifier against Bahrain.

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“This is (U-23) team wants to prove something,” Maro said of the nationals, who played several friendlies against Australian club teams in Sydney early May.

Philippine delegation chief of mission Julian Camacho, who watched the country’s first netball international outing,  gave the Filipinos encouraging words after the match.

“This is their first time in the SEA Games and their first game ever. We can’t expect much from them, but I saw that they played very hard,” said Camacho.

The Filipinos showed their unfamiliarity with netball, a sport similar to basketball, as they lapsed into a series of errors such as lifting the pivot foot or crossing the lines as players are only allowed to move only in their designated spots, depending on their playing positions.

Ana Thea Cenarosa scored 19 points for the Philippines but the 5-foot-10 former cagebelle appeared to be the only one who was really into the game.

The Nationals managed to keep the game close at 6-10 after the first quarter, but the Thais soon found their range with Sirima Samnaree and Yada Boonkong having a field day firing baskets.

In the third quarter, the Thais outscored the Philippines, 20-2, to set up the wide winning margin.

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