PH spikers post historic Asian Games win, sweep Afghanistan
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine men’s volleyball team swept Afghanistan, 25-23, 25-16, 25-12, to earn its first win in the Asian Games after 49 years on Wednesday at Deqing Sports Gymnasium in Hangzhou, China.
Bryan Bagunas and Steve Rotter formed a potent combo to lead the Filipino Spikers’ historic win and prove that they belong in the continental competition after staying in contention for the Round of 12 with a 1-1 record in Pool F.
Bagunas, a member of the silver medal team in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, was part of another milestone in Philippine men’s volleyball as he dropped 16 points on 14-of-20 attacking clip to go with a block and an ace.
Rotter, the Filipino-American opposite spiker, delivered 13 points to help reigning Taiwan’s Top Volleyball League Most Valuable Player in lifting the squad from a 22-25, 23-25, 20-25 loss to reigning SEA Games champion Indonesia less than 24 hours ago.
The Filipinos try to book a spot in the Round of 12 when they take on Japanese, the World No.5 and Volleyball Nations League bronze medalists, on Thursday evening.
Indonesia and Japan will clash for the 2-0 lead in Pool F on Wednesday evening.
Marck Espejo, who just joined the team on Sunday coming from his build-up with Korean club Incheon Air Jumbos, only played in the third set but contributed three points in their dominant 66-minute win.
The Philippines pulled away from 21-all in the first set behind the go-ahead kill of Rotter and back-to-back hits by Bagunas to reach set point, 24-21, but Rotter committed two consecutive attack errors that allowed the Afghans to trim the lead to just one.
Bagunas drilled another clutch attack to draw first blood and set the tone for their dominant showing in the last two sets for the country’s first win in Asiad men’s volleyball competition since the classification round of the 1974 edition in Tehran, Iran.
Lloyd Josafat was also instrumental with eight points. Jau Umandal and Kim Malabunga chipped in seven and six markers, respectively, as setter Vince Mangulabnan executed the plays of coach Sergio Veloso.
Afghanistan dropped to 0-2 in Pool F with Gulam Rasool Haidari leading the way with eight points.