SEA Games: PH upset by Cambodia in men’s volleyball, faces must-win vs Thais
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine men’s volleyball team was stunned by a vastly-improved Cambodia side, 21-25, 26-24, 28-30, 27-29, starting off on the wrong foot in the 31st Southeast Asian Games on Saturday at Quang Ninh Gymnasium in Vietnam.
The Cambodians, who lost to the Filipino spikers and got eliminated in the preliminary round of the 2019 SEA Games, pounced on the lethargic start of the silver medalists and displayed nerves of steel in their neck-and-neck encounters in the last three sets to earn their first victory in Pool B.
Bryan Bagunas and Marck Espejo, who were fresh from their stints in Japan V.League, carried the cudgels of the men’s national team, while Jau Umandal was also instrumental but their costly errors took a toll on their squad as Cambodia nailed the timely hits in the crucial moments of the last two sets.
The Philippines is on the brink of elimination in the three-team Pool B, needing to beat Thailand on Monday to advance to the semifinals.
Espejo hurt his ankle in the first set after landing on the opposing blocker’s foot. But he was able to return late in the third set and help his team.
The Ateneo standout drilled a clutch attack to tie the fourth set at 27. But the Cambodians regained the lead, 28-27, before blocking Espejo’s attack to complete the upset, leaving the prolific outside hitter down on his knees after failing to force a decider.
Bagunas and Umandal stepped up when Espejo was out in the second set with the former putting on the finishing touches in the frame to equalize the match to one set apiece.
However, the men’s national team had a miscommunication on offense when it trailed, 28-29, in their extended third set duel as Cambodia easily escaped and took a 2-1 advantage.