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PH spikers make history, dethrone Thais


After 42 years, the Philippine men’s volleyball team advanced to the Southeast Asian Games final after dethroning defending champion Thailand in five epic sets, 17-25, 25-20, 23-25, 27-25, 17-15 Sunday at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.

NU's Bryan Bagunas celebrates during the UAAP Men's Volleyball Step Ladder match against FEU at Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan, April 26, 2017 (Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

NU’s Bryan Bagunas celebrates during the UAAP Men’s Volleyball Step Ladder match against FEU at Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan, April 26, 2017. (Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

 Down one set, the nationals found themselves in a 21-24 disadvantage in the fourth frame. But the gutsy Filipinos started to rally with Bryan Bagunas coming through with a booming spike to save one match point, 24-22.
The Philippines followed it up with a block point before forcing an error from Thailand to force a deadlock at 24-all. They then went on to win that set, 27-25 to keep their finals dream alive.
Picking up from what they left off, the nationals made Thailand worked for every point as they managed to keep the match tight. But the defending champion threatened to break the hearts of the Filipinos as they got into the match point first, 14-13, only to commit a service error.
The Filipino spikers used two-straight points off a block point and a strong hit unleashed by Bagunas sealing the match at 17-15 to book a seat in the finals, breaking the Philippines’ four-decade drought.
“Sobrang saya. Sobrang hindi maipaliwanag yung nararamdaman ko kasi, yun nga, nakuha namin yung panalo ngayon and sure silver na kami pero kailangan pa rin namin magtrabaho para sa championship,” national team head coach Dante Alinsunurin, who couldn’t hide his joy over the historic win.
Bagunas, Mark Espejo, and Kim Malabunga powered the Philippines with 27, 20, and 14 points to end the reign of the winning-est team in SEA Games men’s volleyball.
The pivotal fourth set proved to be a test of character for the team as its top scorers in the game almost thought it would slip away from them.
“Kanina dasal lang kami nang dasal nung 4th set. Kanina after ng game hindi talaga ako makapaniwala, as in kinakagat ko na sarili ko,” said Rex Intal, who saw action for the first time and tallied six points.
“Sobrang intense, sobrang hindi mo ma-explain kung ano yung nangyari kanina kasi yung fourth set patalo na talaga kami pero hindi kami bumitaw,” Malabunga, who had six blocks in the game, said.
For the team’s topgunners the match and the victory over Thailand was something to be proud of.
“Sobrang mahalaga ‘tong game na ‘to sa’min. Sobrang nakaka-proud kasi ilang years na silang nagcha-champion yung tapos ito tinalo namin sila. Doon lumabas yung skills at composure namin, e. Sobrang saya, hindi namin ma-explain,” Bagunas said.
“Talo kami nung first set pero nakabawi naman. Lalo nung fourth set, ako kasi nagse-serve nun, e. Hindi ko alam kung ija-jump serve ko o ifo-float ko na lang. Sabi ko, ifo-float ko na lang, tiwala na lang sa isa’t isa. As in kinakabahan ako sa loob ng court nun,” Espejo said.
The nationals produced 16 blocks against Thailand’s nine to make up for their lackluster defense in their previous games.
Amorntep Konhan and Kissada Nilsawai led Thailand’s attack with 20 and 16 points, respectively.
The Philippine team will face Indonesia in the finals for the gold medal on Tuesday.