Men’s team digs up Tehran memories with Asiad win
It took 49 years and two games, but the Philippine men’s volleyball team is a winner again in the Asian Games (Asiad).
Making sure their nearly half-a-century wait wouldn’t come up empty-handed, the Filipino men swept past Afghanistan, 25-23, 25-16, 25-12, on Wednesday at Deqing Sports Gymnasium in Hangzhou, China.
Just less than 24 hours before that, the team dropped its opening Asiad Pool F match to reigning SEA Games champion Indonesia, 25-22, 25-23, 25-20. This time, Bryan Bagunas and Steve Rotter ensured the country would feel that it belonged in the continental competition. It was the country’s first win in Asian Games men’s volleyball competition since the classification round of the 1974 edition in Tehran, Iran.
Bagunas, a member of the historic silver medal team in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, dropped 16 points on a 14-of-20 attacking clip to go with a block and an ace as he again became a part of another milestone of the sport.
Rotter, the Filipino-American opposite spiker, delivered 13 points to help Bagunas, the reigning Taiwan’s Top Volleyball League Most Valuable Player.
The Filipinos, with a 1-1 card, technically have a chance to make it to the Round of 12 but that means having to win against Japan, the world No. 5 and Volleyball Nations League bronze medalist, on Thursday evening.
With the odds heavily against the Filipinos, the win against Afghanistan couldn’t have come at a better time.
Marck Espejo, who just joined the team on Sunday coming from his buildup with Korean club Incheon Air Jumbos, only played in the third set but contributed three points in their dominant 66-minute win.
Gulam Rasool Haidari had eight points for Afghanistan (0-2, win-loss).