All the Philippine national women’s volleyball team needed was one final point to bring the country back to the Southeast Asian Games podium. But it never came.
After trailing two sets to one, the home team sought efforts to salvage the country’s bronze medal hopes. In the crucial stretch, Alyssa Valdez watched from the sidelines as the coaching staff reshuffled the lineup, hoping for a better outcome.
The gamble paid off–the national team, built on the intense support of the home crowd, came through with an inspired play against Indonesia in the fourth set to force a decider.
Both teams exchanged points in an intense fifth set, with key players such as Ces Molina, Jovelyn Gonzaga, Eya Laure, and Mika Reyes catching fire for the tricolor squad in the last frontier.
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Despite being unable to contribute in their final rally, Valdez cheered her heart out for the team, praying hard that glory would come their way. The home team wanted the win badly–the game was their final chance to bounce back from their winless preliminary round and take home the bronze medal, the country’s first since 2005.
When Molina went off the block to set up match point, 14-12, the whole arena was ready to rejoice. After fourteen years of waiting, glory was finally within reach.
One step was all the Philippine team needed, just one final blow to end their campaign on a high note. Unfortunately, the stars didn’t align for them.
“It’s really heartbreaking, really frustrating. [Pero] sabi nga nila sa loob kanina, if it’s not for us, if it’s not our time, it’s not our time,” Valdez said.
The Philippines concluded their SEA Games campaign with a heartbreaking five-set loss against Indonesia, 20-25, 26-24, 15-25, 25-20, 14-16, earlier in the battle-for-third match at the Philsports Arena.
Despite holding two match points, the tricolor squad came up short as Indonesia scored four straight points to snatch the bronze medal finish.
Valdez, despite being benched in the latter half of the game, still finished with 14 points to help scoring leader Molina, who tallied 17 markers for the Philippines.
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Admitting she could have done more for the home team, Valdez still commended her fellow players for showing a good fight in their last campaign of the year.
“Nanghihinayang, siyempre–when you’re outside, you can’t contribute anything. You just have to pray and really believe,” Valdez said.
“But honestly, I’m really happy sa performances ng lahat. Everyone delivered, everyone contributed, and I think ‘yung mga decision ni Coach Shaq, nakita niya kung ano ‘yung mga kailangang gawin ng team at kailangan naming i-adjust,” she added.
While some have questioned the decision to sit Valdez out starting in the fourth set, the volleyball superstar respected the decision, noting the team still fought hard without her in the court.
“Iyon ‘yung best decision na nangyari. Feeling ko mas nakikita naman [ng coaches] kung ano ‘yung mga kailangan ng team. Maganda rin naman na hanggang dulo, lumaban din ang team,” she said.
With the loss, the Philippines finished last out of four teams, with Indonesia taking third. Thailand asserted their supremacy over the regional tournament anew, ending Vietnam in straight sets to take their twelfth straight championship.