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Roaring upset for PH men’s volleyball team

Men’s volleyball squad reaches finals for the first time in 42 years

The Philippine men’s volleyball team celebrates a point against Thailand. INQUIRER PHOTO/AUGUST DELA CRUZ

That was one small point from Bryan Bagunas, one giant statement for men’s volleyball.

Relying on proper execution and solid blocking, the Philippines hammered out a monumental upset over Thailand, 17-25, 25-20, 23-25, 27-25, 17-15, in their semifinal clash in the 30th Southeast Asian Games, sending a delirious crowd at PhilSports Arena over the moon.

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Bagunas came through with a kill off a broken play for the game’s final point to send the Philippines back to the finals after 42 years and the four-time regional champions packing.

“I’m so happy, I can’t even explain what I’m feeling right now,” Philippines head coach Dante Alinsunurin said in Filipino.

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The crowd let its feelings show, rocking the arena long after the final point played out.

Assured of a silver, the country will now shoot for the gold on Tuesday against Indonesia. More importantly, though, it shone a spotlight on men’s volleyball, whose club leagues have struggled to gain the same attention that women’s volleyball has.

“When I entered the court, I was surprised with how big the crowd was. We did not expect it,” said Marck Espejo. The former Ateneo star and Bagunas have been the leading faces of the men’s game.

Gilas women triumph

Gilas Pilipinas’ women’s team also hopes to finally earn its share of the spotlight after Afril Bernardino assembled a monstrous stat line of 18 points, 19 rebounds and three blocks to help the country upset defending champion Malaysia, 81-75, at Mall of Asia Arena.
The women dribblers will face Thailand for the title also on Tuesday.

Down a set and trailing in the fourth, the men’s volleyball team stared down three match points to force a dramatic decider.

In the fifth set, the Philippines gobbled down yet another match point before taking a 16-15 lead. On serve, the Nationals needed to correct a broken play, with Jessie Lopez coming up with a save that turned out to be a perfect set for Bagunas, who slammed home the kill.
Bagunas’ winner was just one of his team-high 27 points off 23 attacks. Espejo added 20.

“In the fourth, it seemed like we were losing but we did not give up,” said middle blocker Kim Malabunga, who had 14 points off seven attacks and six blocks to anchor the country’s net defense. “We’re already in the finals and we don’t know if this will happen again. I can assure you, we’ll go all out in the finals.”

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Rex Intal, another middle blocker, agreed: “After 42 years, we’re back in the finals. I can assure you that we’ll never let go of this opportunity.” –With a report from Mark Giongco INQ

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TAGS: Sports, Volleyball
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