Jaja Santiago, Dimaculangan, Gonzaga stand out in eyes of Japan coach in losing effort
Jaja Santiago goes for a spike against Japanese side NEC Red Rockets.

BINAN CITY – Foton Pilipinas’ Italian mentor Fabio Menta considered the humbling loss to powerhouse NEC Red Rockets of Japan a deep well of lessons.

The Red Rockets schooled Foton in Alonte Sports Arena on Tuesday afternoon, 25-13, 25-7, 25-15, in the classification match for quarterfinals placing of the 2016 AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship.

But heading into the match, Menta already proclaimed that the experience against the Japanese team will be something he and his wards will learn from, and they look to apply what they learned in their next game.

“Going to school. Japan is the teacher and we will learn the lesson. Kazakhstan is advised,” Menta posted on his Twitter account @fabio_menta before their match against Japan when they were on the way to the venue.

Foton Pilipinas went to the game prepared. Menta even met with setters Rhea Dimaculangan and Ivy Perez at the hotel lobby where the team is billeted the night before the match to give them some pointers.

But NEC Red Rockets just proved too strong for Foton Pilipinas.

Skipper Akari Oumi led the way for the Red Rockets with 13 effortlessly executed kills as Japan tallied a total of 48 attack points against the Philippines’ 14 – almost a third of the Japanese team’s output.

“So we went to school and we do realize that that is a different level of volleyball,” said Menta. “We know that we don’t belong to that level yet. NEC is one of the 10 or 15 best volleyball clubs in the world but we are starting to learn from this team.”

[See Reality check for Foton Pilipinas]

On the other hand, NEC Red Rockets coach Akinori Yamada came out impressed with the effort of Foton Pilipinas, even noting some players who stood out for him.

“I saw good players (from the Philippines), setter No. 1 (Rhea Dimaculangan) is good in combination plays, [Jaja] Santiago is very tall and really good and [Jovelyn] Gonzaga is very fast inside the court,” said Yamada. “All in all, the Philippine players are very nice.”

Although the Foton spikers lost in straight sets and still have a long way to go before they could be at par with their Asian neighbors, Menta could not help but be proud of his wards.

Foton Pilipinas kept within striking distance in the first set, 11-14, and in the third set, the Philippines took the upper hand briefly, 4-2, after a Rhea Dimaculangan service ace, and stayed close, 11-12.


“I’m very happy with little parts of the game, for a few minutes in the first set and third set we played in the same level,” said Menta.

“We’ve been able to execute our game plan but it was difficult to keep our game plan within one hour and a half if the players are so young in experience in international level,” he added.

Foton Pilipinas holds a 0-2 carryover win-loss card and will face Altay VC of Kazakhstan on Wednesday to determine the final placing for the quarterfinals. 

Follow the writer on Twitter: @meilinlozada