Despite missing out on crucial stretch, Alyssa Valdez proud to see fight in home team

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.

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.

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.



SEA Games 2019: Fuglister, Stern pull off four-goal games against Malaysia as PH cops bronze in ice hockey

Team captain Steven Fuglister and Kenneth Stern spearheaded the scoring avalanche for the Philippine Eagles as they took bronze after their 17-1 runaway victory over Malaysia earlier in the 30th Southeast Asian Games men’s ice hockey tournament.

It was a masterful game by the Philippine national men’s ice hockey team who failed to fulfill their title defense after succumbing to Singapore yesterday in a 3-4 loss.

Fuglister and Stern showed dominance for the Eagles as they came up with four goals each to lead the team to a bronze medal finish.

Jann So Tiong scored the opening shot for the host team followed by an LR Lancero goal at the 15:07 mark for an early 2-0 lead. Aro Regencia and Fuglister staged back-to-back goals with three minutes left for a 4-0 blast at the end of the first period.

The Philippine captain shone in the second frame as he pulled off a hat trick in the first seven minutes of the period, while Stern also got his game going with two goals including the closing shot.

Carl Montano also joined the scoring party as he wristed the puck after a minute in the second period, while Lancero registered his second goal of the match as the Philippines led 11 to none.

The Eagles never looked back as they continued their mastery over Malaysia in the third session, with BJ Imperial scoring the country’s twelfth goal. Stern also completed his four-goal game with two shots in the final period, along with contributions from So Tiong, Regencia, and Sam Bengzon.

With the victory, the Philippines concluded the ice hockey tournament in third place with a 4-2 record, their two losses coming from Thailand and Singapore who will face each other in the gold medal match.



Alyssa Valdez saw limited minutes in game against Indonesia due to stomach illness, says Aby Maraño

The Philippine national women’s volleyball team missed the usual scoring output of Alyssa Valdez in their four-set loss against Indonesia as she was sidetracked by stomach illness, according to team captain Aby Maraño.

Feeling under the weather, the open spiker saw limited time in their game and was reduced to only two points earlier.

“May iniinda siyang masakit. Hindi rin natin gustong pwersahin siya–ang importante sa amin, hindi man siya makalaro, [may]  papalit sa kanya,” Maraño said.


“Hindi naman pwedeng nahihirapan na ‘yung player tapos pipilitin–[baka] lalong lumala ‘yung karamdaman. Pero ang maganda naman, nandiyan si Alyssa. Pinipilit niya kahit may nararamdaman siyang masakit,” she added.

The Philippines failed to finish the preliminary round with a win after bowing down to Indonesia, 25-22, 26-28, 22-25, 14-25, earlier at the Philsports Arena.

While the Philippines started strong with an opening set win, the host team committed a string of miscommunication errors in the second set as Indonesia tied the match one set apiece.

The Philippines led at the latter half of the third set, 20-17, but Indonesia retaliated with five straight points to take the lead, pouncing on their momentum to snatch the 2-1 set advantage.

The tricolor squad ultimately lost steam in the fourth set as the visiting team led early to pull away with their first victory of the tournament.

In place of Valdez’s usual production, the trio of Mylene Paat, Ces Molina, and Majoy Baron took charge for the host country as they scored 14, 13, and 12 markers respectively.

The Phenom, who led the Nationals in the past two games, took to Twitter to thank their supporters, saying the fight isn’t over yet for the Philippines.

RELATED – Alyssa Valdez after PH loss to Indonesia: ‘Hindi pa tapos ang laban’

The Philippine team seeks to end their regional tournament campaign on a good note as they face Indonesia anew on Monday for the bronze medal match.

SEA Games 2019: PH men’s ice hockey team drops semis game against Singapore, settles for bronze medal match

The Philippine Eagles bid farewell to their title defense hopes after succumbing to Singapore, 3-4, earlier in the 30th Southeast Asian Games men’s ice hockey tournament at the SM Mall of Asia Skating Rink.

The defending SEA Games champions came up short in the final period with Singapore’s James Kodrowski wristing a game-winner with 21 seconds left.

The host team started strong with goals by captain Steven Fuglister and Francois Gautier at the latter half of the first period to take the lead, 2-0.

However, Singapore responded right back in the second period with Kodrowski and Bryan Lee taking charge to tie the game, 2-all.

The visiting team began the third period with an aggressive play finished by Christopher Wong to take the lead, 3-2.

While EJ Sibug came up with a goal to equalize the game with one minute left, the Philippines ultimately lost steam as Singapore scored their winning goal.

With the loss, the Eagles are relegated to a bronze medal match and will face Malaysia tomorrow.

PH men’s hockey team falls to Thailand in lopsided 1-10 loss, ends prelims in second

The Philippine Eagles end the preliminaries on a bad note after bowing down to Thailand, 1-10, earlier in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games men’s ice hockey tournament at the SM Mall of Asia Ice Skating Rink.

The clash turned out to be a one-sided affair all throughout as Thailand got the best of the Philippine team, who snapped their three-game winning streak and took their first loss of the competition.

The Thais opened the game with a strong first period, wristing three shots on 14 attempts for a 3-0 lead over the host team.

After only four shots on goal in a lethargic opening salvo, the Philippines sought a more aggressive performance in the second session, finally scoring their lone goal of the game courtesy of Carlo Tenedero.

However, Thailand responded with an avalanche of points, tallying three goals in a span of a minute shortly after Tenedero’s point and an additional shot to conclude the second period with the lead, 7-1.

The Philippines ultimately lost steam in the final period as they fell victim to Thailand’s strong defensive game and energetic offense, letting the visiting team score three more goals to end the game with a nine-point deficit, 1-10.

With the loss, the Philippines ends the preliminary round in second place with a 3-1 record, while Thailand currently stands atop the tournament with an untainted 4-0 card.

The Eagles seek to sneak into the final round anew as they face Singapore in the semifinals.


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SEA Games 2019: Füglister, Tenedero vow better team showing in clash against Thailand

Olympic champion Schooling beaten again at SEA Games

The Philippine Eagles have stamped their dominance on ice as they stand atop the Southeast Asian Games men’s ice hockey tournament with a currently undefeated record. However, the defending champions have no plans of stopping just yet.

The Philippines overpowered Indonesia last Wednesday, 8-1, to snatch their third win in a row and keep a comfortable spot in the team standings.

But while the Eagles are on a high right now, the team still aspires to push their game higher as they reflect on their previous performances to fix their lapses.

Such as their second period against Indonesia, where the Philippine team failed to score despite aggressive plays every now and then.

Captain Steven Füglister, who scored back-to-back goals in the third period, admitted his team took a while to fully put their system in place.

“I felt like we came out slow. The energy level was a bit low in the first period, but we talked about it in the locker room but then we regrouped and played a strong third period,” he said.

The captain also gave Indonesia’s goalie Sangga Putra who played a strong second period, thwarting all attempts by the Philippine team to wrist the puck in.

“I have to give credit to Indonesia’s goalie, He played a really strong game, I think he stopped over 50 shots which is unheard of,” he said.

Later today, the Eagles will get its acid test against the also-undefeated Thai team, who has yet to give a point away in the tournament.

The game against Thailand holds significant importance not only for momentum purposes, but it would also determine who finishes on top of the competition after the preliminary round.

Carlo Tenedero, who took the opening goal for the Philippines in Wednesday’s game, emphasized the importance of following their system like what they did against Indonesia, especially in the third period.

“They key is just to stick together and follow the system. We talked about the second period; we went to the third period and got our system, and we were able to pull away,” Tenedero said.

With both teams wanting to win their final game of the preliminaries, Füglister hopes for a stronger hustle from his team this time around.

“[It’s] whoever finishes first in the round robin, so it’s an important game. We just have to keep on trying and hustling, and eventually the puck is going to go in,” the captain ended.


Sam Bengzon finds his way back to the ice

All the ice around him was not enough to stop hockey forward Samuel James Bengzon from heating up the SM Mall of Asia Skating Rink, in what would go down as one of his best moments in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.

With less than six minutes left in the final period and a Singapore goal tying it up two apiece just a minute ago, Bengzon found the barely open ice and went for the kill, hitting his first international competition goal to a wild response from the crowd.

“When I scored that goal, I went straight to where my family was,” he said, recounting how he skated to the glass barricade to share his triumph with his loved ones and fans.

READ — PH men’s hockey team survives Singapore for second win

From his composure at that moment, one could not tell the 30-year-old was not even sure he would be in this arena this year. Go further back to two years ago, and he was not even a hockey player.

Bengzon first found his spot on the ice when he was 10. But at the time, he and his cousins were more interested in figure skating–this was until an old coach approached him and asked if he wanted to try another ice sport.

“I already saw Mighty Ducks and I was a big fan of the movie,” he said of the 1992 Disney hockey film. “Then a few months after, I tried hockey, fell in love with it, and kept playing.”

His Disney fantasy soon became a reality when Bengzon started competing in hockey meets until high school, while also doubling as a varsity baseball player in the process. But just before college, he felt he wanted to have a normal balance of schoolwork and social life, which led him to leave behind his childhood sport.

Instead of picking up his club for training nights like most of his contemporaries, Bengzon spent a decade away from the puck, building a family of his own and getting into the poultry and CrossFit training businesses. Incidentally, being a fitness coach kept him ready to go back into the rink anytime, as it honed his discipline and maintained his athletic form.

“In Crossfit, everything is about trying to learn. It teaches you discipline and knowing yourself,” he said. “So I think it really helps with the hockey aspect; I know myself and I know what I need to work on.”

What ultimately got him back in the fray was his being a dad. Last year, he and his wife were deciding which sport their four-year-old son should play. They settled on ice hockey.

Bengzon eventually realized that the best way to get their child interested in the game was for him to have a role model to look up to. Wanting to play again either way and with the support of his wife and kid, he took a jersey and went back to the rink.

“Most of the time, [my son] would beg to watch us practice. He loves skating, he loves the ice,” he said. “My wife, she knows not to wake me up after a night of hockey, so she brings the kids out of the room just so I don’t wake up.”

It was never going to be easy coming back from a ten-year hiatus, but Bengzon caught up with invaluable help from his teammates, who were kind enough to spend extra sessions outside of their weekly routine training him on the ice. He regained his form just in time for this year’s IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia, helping his team lead group A of the preliminary round and finish silver against the once 45th-ranked team in the world, Mongolia.

“It’s really nice to have Sam as part of our team, because ever since I was really young, he’s actually the one I look up to in the ice. The guy’s my idol,” said defenseman LR Lancero. Bengzon, during his first hockey run, was there when Lancero took his first step on the rink at three years old.


“He’s a guy that I trust and depend on, not just him but all of my teammates, because it’s really good to have someone behind your back to support you,” he added.

Now in the thick of his first SEA Games stint and with two international goals in winning games, Bengzon’s focus is to keep at it as his team faces powerhouse Thailand — which has not allowed a single goal from opposing teams.

What gives them confidence, he said, is a home court advantage like nothing any of them had seen.

“Thank you for all your support so far, the Facebook messages, the reposts. After the first win, I spent an hour before going to sleep just thanking everyone,” Bengzon said. “It really helped. Every small message like, ‘good job,’ we remember it.”

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Jia Morado, Rhea Dimaculangan cherish playing with Nootsara Tomkom

To go up against a legend is a dream come true for any up-and-coming athlete.

For setters Jia Morado and Rhea Dimaculangan, their meeting against Thailand held a special significance, as it might be one of the last games of renowned playmaker Nootsara Tomkom.

The 34-year-old setter is hailed as one of the best players to ever don the Thai jersey, proven by her various individual awards and championships both with Thailand and her professional club teams.

Tomkom is rumored to step down from the national team together with other veterans Pleumjit Thinkaow, Onuma Sittirak, Malika Kanthong, and Wilavan Apinyapong, after their campaign for an elusive Olympic stint.

While Dimaculangan has never played against the Thai setter in previous international tournaments, Morado had a short opportunity to go up against Tomkom in last year’s Asian Games, meeting at opposite sides of the court in the third set of their opening game.

So for the Philippine setters, it is probably their last chance to face the legend and leave a good impression.

But while the Philippine national women’s volleyball team concluded their gallant stand against Thailand with a straight-set loss, both Morado and Dimaculangan felt like victors as they got the chance to play against Tomkom before her possible retirement from the national team.

The current Petron Blaze Spiker admitted she was in awe playing against the Thai playmaker, who finished with 24 excellent sets against the Philippines.

“Actually, nakaka-starstruck kanina kasi parang siya ‘yung number one setter, ‘di ba, so parang nakakatuwa din kasi kahit papaano, kaya naming makipagsabayan,” Dimaculangan said.


“Tao rin pala siya na nagkakamali,” the setter added jokingly.

Morado, meanwhile, didn’t hide her emotions after playing against her most admired player. Despite feeling overwhelmed, the Creamline setter made sure to stay cool and composed, reminding herself not to compare herself to the Thai setter and just play her game instead.

“Kung tatapat ka sa ganoong kagaling na setter, hindi mo pwedeng isipin na mas mababa ka maglaro–kailangan isipin mo na hindi mo siya susubukang pantayan, pero susubukan mong ipakita ‘yung best na kaya mong gawin,” Morado said.


“Pero siyempre may konting kilig pa rin. Same air din kami ng hinihinga,” she added excitedly.

The Philippines started the match on a bad note as Thailand easily took the opening salvo, but the fight started going for the host country at the last stretch of the second salvo despite the two-set deficit.

The tricolor squad gave the visiting team a set to remember in the third frame, as the Philippines fought five consecutive match points and even staged a set point.

Both teams exchanged plays in the extension, but the home team ultimately fell short as a broken play from Apinyapong ended the game in favor of Thailand.

Morado surely relished her time going up against Tomkom and the Thai national team, noting that every game against them is a learning experience for the whole tricolor squad.

“Kahit sinong kalaban namin sa kabila ng court, natututo kami, so what more for me and Ate Rhea learning from how Nootsara moves and kahit kay Pornpun kahit nung pinasok siya. I’m proud na nilabanan namin siya, and we really did our best,” Morado said.


“Kahit papaano, pinawisan naman ata sila, pero mas masakit mga katawan natin,” she ended on a light note.

Aby Maraño, PH spikers hope to make lasting impression on Thai legends

With their opening day loss against Vietnam, the Philippine national women’s volleyball team needs an all-important win over powerhouse Thailand if they want a better standing in the 30th Southeast Asian Games.

One loss away from a gold medal chance in the regional tournament, the Nationals find their backs against the wall as they try to snatch a victory over the 11-peat SEA Games champions. It would be a tough mountain to climb for the tricolor squad though, as the Thais have been dominant in the region for quite a long time.

For Aby Maraño, however, the game holds significance as it might be the last time the Philippine squad could play against Thailand’s greats, including Pleumjit Thinkaow, Onuma Sittirak, Nootsara Tomkom, Wilavan Apinyapong, and Malika Kanthong, who are all rumored to retire from the national team after their campaign for an elusive Olympic stint.

The team captain said she wants the team to go all out and give the Thai legends a good fight.

“Susulitin namin siyempre kung last playing year na rin nila Pleumjit, Nootsara, and Wilavan. Why not makipagbakbakan kami doon?” Maraño said.


“At least matapos man ‘yung career nila, tumatak man lang sa isip nila na itong mga players ng Pilipinas, nag-improve na ‘to from the first time na nakita namin silang maglaro ng volleyball since 2015 sa SEA Games,” she added.

While their game later would prove challenging, hopes are up for the Philippine team as they bank on their experience against the Thais in the 2019 ASEAN Grand Prix, where they were able to get a set in the first leg.

“Last ASEAN Grand Prix, nakakuha kami ng isang set sa kanila. So ibig sabihin, kaya, may pag-asa,” Maraño said.

Maraño and the rest of the tricolor squad look to emerge victorious later as they seek to finish in the top two of the preliminary round for a chance at gold.

SEA Games 2019: PH men’s ice hockey team dominates Indonesia to stay undefeated

Olympic champion Schooling beaten again at SEA Games

The Philippine Eagles remain perfect in their title defense campaign after overpowering Indonesia, 8-1, earlier in the 30th Southeast Asian Games ice hockey tournament at the SM Mall of Asia Ice Skating Rink.

The game proved to be a better showing for the Philippine men’s ice hockey team coming from their tight 5-3 win over Singapore yesterday.

The Philippines started strong in the opening salvo with Carl Tenedero wristing an early shot at the 19:01 mark to draw first blood, followed by a goal by Kenneth Stern at the 13:15 mark for a 2-0 lead in the first period.

However, the second period saw the Eagles struggle on offense with their various power plays all thwarted by Indonesia’s goalie Sangga Putra.

The visiting team scored a goal at the 7:16 mark to get on the board, but the Philippines still held the lead after the second period, 2-1.

The third period turned out to be a different story for the Eagles as Aro Regencia’s early goal sparked a scoring avalanche for the host country, with captain Steven Fuglister tallying back-to-back goals for a 5-1 lead.

It was all Team Philippines from then on, with Tenedero, Miguel Relampagos, and Sam Bengzon attending the goal-fest at the final stretch of the third period.

With the win, the Eagles remain undefeated in the tournament with a 3-0 record.

The Philippine men’s ice hockey team looks to pounce on their three-game winning streak as they face Thailand on Friday.

Alyssa Valdez relishes playing against former teammate T4

Both heralded as top players in their respective countries, Alyssa Valdez and Tran Thi Thanh Thuy met at the top anew to bring glory to their homeland.

Tran, popularly known as T4, has been the center of the Vietnamese squad with her lethal offense and her steady overall game. Valdez, too, shares the same narrative, serving as the Philippine team’s most consistent scorer.

Both players are no strangers to each other, as they already faced numerous times in previous international tilts. But competition isn’t the only thing connecting the two volleyball superstars, as they are also good friends after suiting up for the Chinese-Taipei club team Attack Line back in 2017.

In the opening game of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games women’s volleyball tournament yesterday, the Vietnamese ace took the last laugh as her team survived the Philippines in five sets to take the win.

Valdez and Tran took the spotlight in the opening day, exchanging monstrous attacks and leading their squads all throughout the game.

Both players took center stage for their respective teams as they finished as the game’s top scorers–Tran delivered 27 points atop a triple-double performance, while Valdez registered 22 points built on a double-double game.

While the tricolor squad failed to start their title campaign on a good note, Valdez admitted her joy going up against her former teammate who fought hard for her country.

“When it’s game time, it’s game time. [With] T4, we can see on her face na talagang lalaban siya at ipaglalaban niya ‘yung bansa niya. Same din naman sa akin, na para sa Pilipinas at para sa team ko,” Valdez said.

In a post-game interview, Tran said she is open to playing in the country if given the opportunity.

“If given a chance in the future, I’m open to playing here. I can go here and play for any team here in the Philippines,” she said.

READ — Vietnam’s T4 open to playing volleyball in the Philippines

If the stars aligned just right, Valdez and Tran might be wreaking havoc alongside each other once more. But that would have to wait, as the Vietnamese ace is currently a part of the Japanese club team Denso Airybees in the Japan V. Premier League.

Vietnam’s T4 open to playing volleyball in the Philippines

The home crowd may have had their hearts broken after the Philippine national women’s volleyball team lost their first game against Vietnam, but Filipinos are humble enough to recognize greatness when they see one.

The Nationals fought bravely despite their opening day loss, striking early in the first set and coming through in the fourth set, tying the game two sets apiece to force a decider.

But the final frame proved too much for the tricolor squad, as Vietnam banked on their net defense to pull away in the latter part of the set and take the win.

Despite the loss, sports fans were treated to amazing volleyball as they cheered and showed respect for both teams with every play made and point won.

Such was the case for Tran Thi Thanh Thuy, who served as the anchor of the Vietnamese team to take their first win.

Popularly known as T4, the 6-foot-4 open spiker registered 27 points atop a triple-double game to lift Vietnam, delivering one monstrous kill after another which left the crowd in awe every single time.

With the intense and supportive volleyball atmosphere in the Philippines as seen yesterday, the Vietnamese ace revealed she is open to the idea of playing in the country if presented the opportunity.

“If given a chance in the future, I’m open to playing here. I can go here and play for any team here in the Philippines,” the open spiker said.

That would have to wait though, as she is currently a part of the Japanese club team Denso Airybees in the Japan V. Premier League.

While Tran missed the second leg of the 2019 ASEAN Grand Prix due to her club team commitments, her current Japan stint helped her to develop her game further, bringing that experience to the national team.

“I went there to improve my defense and game. I think I improved a lot during my stay there,” the open spiker said.

Tran is no stranger to Philippine volleyball as both teams have faced numerous times in international tournaments. She also previously played alongside Alyssa Valdez for Attack Line VC in the Chinese-Taipei Volleyball League.

SEA Games 2019: PH men’s hockey team survives Singapore for second win

The Philippine national men’s ice hockey team cruised to their second win of the 30th Southeast Asian Games after surviving Singapore with a 5-3 victory earlier at the SM Mall of Asia Ice Skating Rink.

Aro Regencia scored back-to-back goals in the final stretch of the third period to close out the game and give the Philippines back-to-back wins in the tournament.

After Singapore capitalized on their power play to score a buzzer beater at the end of the first period, captain Steven Füglister responded right back in the second period to tie the match, 1-all.

The final period saw intense competition, with Füglister scoring another goal before Singapore replied with a goal of their own to even the game, 2-all.

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The Philippines took the lead anew with Sam Bengzon taking charge, but Singapore refused to go away without a fight as they score at the 2:37 mark.

Regencia said enough was enough as he scored a game-winner with 18 seconds left and added an empty net goal to help the host country maintain an undefeated record.

The Philippines looks to extend their winning streak to three games as they face Indonesia at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

Alyssa Valdez apologizes for Vietnam loss: “Pasensya na at nagkulang kami”

Despite an ecstatic outlook going to their opening game, the Philippine national women’s volleyball team concluded the day with a painful loss in front of the home crowd.

Admitting her excitement in their 30th Southeast Asian Games women’s volleyball campaign, team mainstay Alyssa Valdez didn’t hide her emotions as she offered an apology after their opening day letdown.

“Pasensya na at nagkulang tayo. Kinulang, kinapos talaga kami sa dulo,” Valdez said.

Valdez and the national team started their title hunt on a bad note after bowing down to Vietnam in five sets, 25-21, 23-25, 19-25, 25-20, 15-8, earlier at the Philsports Arena.

After starting the match with an intense opening set win, the tricolor squad saw stronger hustle from the Vietnamese team with senior open spiker Tran Thi Thanh Thuy taking charge in the second and third sets for a 1-2 set deficit.

While they took back the fourth set to force a decider, the Nationals eventually ran out of gas as Vietnam waxed hot in the fifth set, leading as much as six points in the final stretch to pull away with the win.

Despite leading the tricolor squad with 22 points, Valdez felt like she could have done more as she really wanted to snatch an opening day victory for the country.

“Personally, I was really looking forward to get the win, but unfortunately we didn’t. Ako, gusto ko pang mag-improve–more than the offense, I really want to help the team on both net and floor defense,” the open spiker said.

Three other players finished in double digits, with Jovelyn Gonzaga and Ces Molina tallying 12 points each, and Majoy Baron with 10 markers.

Falling short in the deciding set, Valdez admitted the Vietnamese team displayed stronger composure and utilized their experience to take the win.

“We had a good fight from the first set to the fourth set, but I guess experience will play a big role in the fifth set, sa dami ng nilaro ng Vietnam for the longest time sa international competitions,” Valdez said.

The open spiker plans to leave their loss behind as they look forward to bounce back in their next game against powerhouses Thailand, who have won eleven straight SEA Games titles.

“One thing we’ve learned today–walang imposible. Sinumang makakalaban namin, kung sino [ang] magbibigay ng buong puso sa laban, iyon siguro ang mananalo,” Valdez said.