AVC qualifiers: V-League/PH loses to Indonesia, Indons with “man” in roster?

The V-League selection/Philippines dropped a straight sets decision to Indonesia 25-20, 25-19, 25-22 to finish in third place in the recently concluded Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) Southeastern Zonal Women’s Qualification Tournament in Quang Tri, Vietnam. The host nation emerged as the region’s representative to the Asian Volleyball Championship this September as the Indons settled for second place.

Moments before Team Philippines' final match against Indonesia (Photo courtesy: Tony Boy Liao)

After leading for a majority of the first and third sets, the Filipinas surrendered the advantages at crucial stages of the endgame allowing Indonesia to cap their run in the tournament with a rousing victory over the Philippines; a team they had not met in an FIVB sanctioned event since the 2005 Manila Southeast Asian (SEA) Games Bronze Medal match where the host nation prevailed.

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In this final encounter for both squads in the meet, the Philippine starting six underwent a facelift with the insertion of former Shakey’s V-League Finals MVP Rhea Dimaculangan taking the place of reigning Finals MVP and Team Captain Rubie de Leon at the setter’s spot while La Salle Dasmariñas superstar Iari Yongco—coming off a ten point outing in the victory against Myanmar—got the nod over former league MVP Suzanne Roces at the Utility Spiker position. It seemed to do the trick as the Philippines coasted to an 8-2 lead at the first technical timeout (TTO) and were still up 16-12 at TTO#2. However, the next message sent to members of the media by Team Manager Tony Boy Liao read: “Lost 1st set 20-25” and suddenly flashbacks of the win against Myanmar began flooding social media anew. The Philippines also lost a late lead against the Burmese and surrendered that first set by the same score, but went on to win the match.

The Philippine starting six underwent a facelift (Photo courtesy: Tony Boy Liao)

The second set transmissions were another story altogether as the Philippines found themselves trailing at the checkpoints, 7-8 at TTO#1 and 13-16 at TTO#2 and went on to drop that set 19-25.

The third set signalled a turning-point in the Filipinas’ game as, like in the first set, the nationals found themselves in control, 8-4 at TTO#1 and 16-14 at TTO#2. After a long dry spell which lasted almost twenty minutes, Liao finally relayed the bad news: “Lost 3rd set & the match 3-0, 25-22.”

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The Philippines were led in scoring by sisters Din-Din and Jaja Santiago who contributed 14 and 11 points, respectively, center Maika Ortiz with ten, Alyssa Valdez with nine, while Dimaculangan had two and Yongco chipped in one point. The rest of the team were held scoreless by the Indonesian defense.

Team Indonesia finished second (Photo courtesy: Tony Boy Liao)

During the individual awards handed out at the end of the tournament, Jaja Santiago was named “Miss Volleyball” as the organziers and her peers recognized that this 6’4”, 17-year-old from the Philippines is among the rising stars in the international game.

The contingent voyages back to Manila on Monday, June 17th where it is anticipated that they will be greeted by a majority of the local fans who supported them “in the dark”; relying on social media updates to keep them abreast of the scores.

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On a controversial note, the gender of Indonesian open-spiker Aprilla Manganang was brought into question. Mangalang, a long time club player in Jakarta, surprised many due her manly looks and abilities. When scrutinized, the Indonesian contingent showed a piece of paper which was apparently a “gender certificate” attesting that Mangalang is female. It is also appears that this “certificate” carries enough merit to be admitted into the AVC records as proof of gender and, hence, non-remonstrative.

Jen Reyes (R) poses with controversial Indon spiker Aprilla Mangalang (Photo: Jen Reyes' Instagram account)

Not that it would make a difference in the final team standings as the host nation swept all its assignments, including another straight sets triumph against Myanmar to close out the tournament later that evening. Vietnam now joins Thailand, China, Korea, Japan and Kazakhstan in the Asian Volleyball Championships with two other regions still to compete their qualifiers.

Yahoo! Sports Philippines will devote a story on these intrepid lasses upon their return to the mainland as the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) will now have to mull over the implications of this sortie and how it will affect our participation in the upcoming SEA Games in Myanmar later this year. Yahoo! Sports Philippines will follow those developments very closely and vows to keep everyone informed on the matter.

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Astronaut Neil Armstrong once quipped about small steps and giant leaps. Well, in the case of the V-League selection who came together at a moment’s notice for flag and country for the first time in eight years of absence from the international volleyball scene, their sacrifice and efforts for the country must surely be remembered; if not by those who have to make the calls, by those rabid fans who stood by their volleybelles even in the face certain defeat and seemingly insurmountable odds. The growing popularity of the sport has just been magnified tremendously, even if most people did not even see a shroud of the action.

Will we see Alyssa Valdez back in a Philippine uniform? (Photo courtesy: Tony Boy Liao)

Let’s hope that the powers that be see this episode as an inspiration to move forward; for volleyball’s sake, and for the nation’s sake.

Follow Noel Zarate on Twitter (@NoelZarate)