ASIAN GAMES: Pinay volleybelles face another tough squad in Japan

ABS-CBN Sports on Aug 21, 2018 09:58 AM
Pinay volleybelles face another tough squad in Japan
After falling to Thailand, the Philippines hopes to rise above powerhouse Japan in the preliminaries of the women’s volleyball tournament of the 18th Asian Games Tuesday.

JAKARTA — After collapsing to powerhouse Thailand in the opener, the Philippines marches to battle anew as it clashes with another super team — Japan — in the preliminaries of the women’s volleyball tournament of the 18th Asian Games Tuesday at the Bulungan Sports Hall here.

Action starts at 4:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m. in Manila) with the Filipinas coming in with zero expectations knowing that the Japanese are force to be reckoned with.

Japan is a five-time Asian Games champion and a regular fixture in elite tourneys like the World Championships, Volleyball Nations League, World Cup and the Olympics.

The squad is marching with chip on its shoulder after Thailand dominated it in the bronze medal match of the previous Asian Games in Incheon in 2014.

Seasoned international campaigners Nana Iwasaki, Risa Shinnabe and Yuki Ishii remain as the leaders under the guidance of head coach Kumi Nakada.

In the opening-day salvo, the troika did most of the damage as the Japanese clobbered the Indonesians, 25-20, 25-11, 25-19, to join Thailand on top of Pool A.

Philippines’ head coach Shaq Delos Santos knows that Japan is nearly indestructible so they would use the match as an opportunity to gauge where they stand against an ultra elite team that had already tested its mettle against the world’s best teams like Olympic champion China, Serbia and the United States.

“We will study them and train hard in preparation for our match against these Japanese,” said Delos Santos, who just came from a two-week training in Osaka and Okayama City in Japan where they polished their floor defense and blocking.

The Thais gave the Filipinos a rude welcome into the Games after a 36-year absence.

They had an impressive start, but collapsed in the final stretch of the first set as rising star Chatchu-on Moksri and Pimpichaya Kokram started to wax hot while veteran Pleumjit Thinkaow and Onuma Sittirak asserted their will over the Filipinos.

Jaja Santiago and Alyssa Valdez were the bright spots in the first set, but their luster faded as Delos Santos opted to dig deep into his bench in quest of a spark.

“They made us realized that the Asian Games is no picnic,” said Delos Santos following their 22-25, 12-25, 15-25 setback to the 11-time Southeast Asian Games champion.

“We still have a lot of catching ups to do. We have to work hard and hope for the best. Hopefully, we can match up well against Japan. We’re looking forward to playing them in a tournament like the Asian Games.”

Aside from Santiago and Valdez, also tipped to step up are Mika Reyes, team captain Aby Marano, Kianna Dy, Kim Fajardo and Dawn Macandili.

Other members of the team are Denden Lazaro, Majoy Baron, Mylene Paat, Maika Ortiz, Dindin Santiago, Cha Cruz and Julia Morado.

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