Valdez, PH recovers from lethargic third set to stun Vietnam in AVC Women’s tilt

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BIÑAN, Laguna – The Philippines continued to shock the world as it took down – finally – the Southeast Asian powerhouse Vietnam, 27-25, 26-24, 17-25, 25-23, to finish third in the Pool E of the 2017 Asian Women’s Volleyball Championship before the capacity crowd at the Alonte Sports Arena, Monday night.

The Philippines, led by 5-foot-9 Alyssa Valdez, came back from a huge deficit in the first two sets, before recovering in the fourth to fend off a late Vietnam’s rally and get its second victory in the biennial tournament.

Valdez, who struggled the last time out, finished with her tournament-high 20 points, including three service aces in the final possessions of the first and second set, and delivered the game-clinching kill in the fourth to lead the Philippines to the historic win.

The Philippines, who has a 0-7 losing record in its last seven encounters against Vietnam, not just assured a quarterfinal date with Southeast Asian giant Thailand with the win, but also showed its worth on the international stage.

A day after pushing 10th-ranked Korea to the limit, the Filipinas finally got the winning act.

And it took an overall team effort by Jaja Santiago, Abby Maraño, Maika Ortiz, Jovelyn Gonzaga, Kim Fajardo, Valdez, and the save-it-all libero Dawn Macandili to get the job done.

The lanky Santiago came firing from all over the court, finishing with 19 points, built on 16 attacks, two service aces, and a block to inspire a run that left the 44th-ranked Vietnam in shock.

Maraño and Ortiz, also provided stability in the blocking department, chasing almost every Vietnamese attacks en route to 11 and 8 points, respectively. Maraño and Ortiz also keyed a dramatic Philippine come back from 14-20 deficit in the opening set when they rejected Vietnam’s 19-year old sensation Tran Thi Thanh Thuy four times to set up the upset bid.

“They played inspired. What they showed there just now was the heart of a team that really wanted to win and that was the greatest thing I saw today,” said Philippine coach Francis Vicente.

If there was someone who really gave her heart and poured it all in the court, then it was the pint-sized Macandili who was.

The 5-foot-0 libero out of De La Salle University, stood tall above anyone else, tallying a game-high 19 digs in over two hours encounter against TTT Thuy, Pham Thi Kim Hue, Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hoa, and the rest of the hard-hitting Vietnam.

“First time ko na makasama sa national team, for the past two games nangangapa pa ako, like ‘yung aura ng laro rito na puro foreigners ang kalaban,” said Macandili.

“Tapos nung na-experience ko na na nasa loob ako ng court, sabi ko, ‘Teka, volleyball lang itong pinag-uusapan natin, parang it’s anybody’s game’,” she added.

T. Thuy led the way for Vietnam with 16 points but struggled to find her rhythm early after getting continuously haunted by the Filipinas’ solid floor defense.

Hoa added 15 points while Hue connected on several running attacks to finish with 14.

Vietnam faces 6th-ranked Japan in the quarterfinals tomorrow.