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PH spikers stun Kobe

OSAKA, Japan – The national women’s volleyball team is starting to reap the fruits of its grueling training as it finally overcame the tough Kobe Shinwa Women’s University squad, 25-21, 23-25, 28-26, 24-26, 17-15, in a friendly match late Saturday here.

Jaja Santiago and Alyssa Valdez displayed top-level games, but it was a total team effort at the defensive end for the Nationals, who are entering the final stretch of their 17-day training in preparation for the 19th AVC Asian Senior Women’s Championship and the 29th Southeast Asian Games.

The 6-5 Santiago was dominant offensively as she delivered 19 kills, four aces, and five blocks for 28 points while Valdez provided support with 18 kills, three aces and three blocks to finish with 24 points.

Also coming up with a big game was open spiker Frances Molina, who chipped in 10 kills, four aces and two blocks for 16 points, as well as playmaker Kim Fajardo, who registered 57 excellent sets in the match that served as their final tuneup battle with the reigning Philippine Superliga (PSL) Invitational Conference champion.

Head coach Francis Vicente beamed satisfaction over their performance, but stressed the importance of consistency, hunger, and desire to come up with a impressive performance in the two major international tournaments ahead.

It was the Nationals’ first victory in Japan.

They opened the camp with a series of straight-set losses to Okayama City Seagulls, an elite club team seeing action in the Japan V.Premier League.

Then, they moved the camp to Osaka where they managed to keep the match close before bowing to Kobe Shinwa in a pair of friendlies.

Kobe Shinwa coach Kiyokazu Yamamoto admitted that he was surprised with how the Filipinos performed, especially in the crucial stretch of the fifth set where team captain Mika Reyes and Jaja Santiago delivered the telling blows that doomed the Japanese team’s chances.

He also noted that the Filipinos are slowly getting used to the Japanese brand of volleyball and it wouldn’t take long before they could polish it and equate it to victories in the International arena.

“The Philippine team is getting better each day,” said Yamamoto. “The services were all heavy and we had difficulty plotting our attacks. Jaja also played very well. She used her height effectively and it gave us many problems defensively.”