NAKHON RATCHASIMA, Thailand – The Philippine team displayed guts and poise when it mattered most as it rallied back and beat Sri Lanka for its breakthrough win in the 17th Asian Women’s Volleyball Championship at the MCC Hall here late Monday night.
Down by a set against their 13th ranked opponent, the Power Pinays swept the final two sets of the thrilling match to claw their way back from the jaws of defeat and gut out the come-from-behind victory, 19-25, 25-18, 19-25, 25-23, 15-11.
Veteran Aiza Maizo-Pontillas came to the rescue of the team in the deciding set, leading the fightback that saw the Power Pinays overhaul a 9-11 deficit by scoring the last six points for the win. Maizo-Pontillas capped her heroics by delivering the game-clinching shot.
The 5-foot-10 University of Santo Tomas alumnus finished with a team-high 22 points – including three of the Power Pinays’ last six - from 16 attacks, five blocks, and a service ace in leading the Philippines to its first win in the biennial meet after eight years.
“Walang dudang magaling,” said coach Ernesto Pamilar of his prized utility spiker shortly after the two-hour match. “Pinanindigan niya lahat ng sinabi niyang magta-trabahao siya sa likod (floor defense).”
Team captain Angge Tabaquero came back from a sprained ankle injury to score 19 points, while Analyn Joy Benito and Honey Royse Tubino added 11 and 10, respectively, for the Filipina spikers, whose stint in this prestigious meet is supported by PLDT HOME Fibr broadband.
“Siyempre sa dami ng nag-da-doubt sa kakayahan nung team, masaya na naka-panalo kami,” said the 25-year-old Maizo-Pontillas, a native of Northern Samar. “Hindi madali lumaban kung pati kababayan mo dina-down ka. Pero laban, sige lang ng sige.”
The win put the 16th-ranked Power Pinays in a perfect position to vie for 9th to 12th place in the classification phase especially if they beat Myanmar in their next game Tuesday night.
A separate Philippine team defeated Myanmar in four sets during the Asian Southeastern Zone Women’s World Championship qualifier in Vietnam three months ago
“Pag nanalo tayo sa Myanmar, lalaban tayo for placing.” said Pamilar. “If we win that, we have a chance to place 9th as highest possible and 12th sa lowest.”
Somarathna had 19 points on 15 spikes, two blocks, and two service aces to show the way for the Sri Lankans, who appeared ready to wrap up the game in the fourth set when they led, 15-20.
But the Power Pinays fought their way back, with former Far Eastern University stalwart Wenneth Eulalio’s block tying the game at 22-all, before Relea Saet of La Salle scored an ace to give the team the lead for good, 23-22, and paved the way for the deciding set.
Wannithilaka, the Sri Lankan coach, admitted being caught by surprise by the Philippine team’s strong showing.
“We don’t know how they play. We didn’t know what we’re up against,” he admitted. “They really caught us off-guard.”
“This team is strong and will get stronger in the coming years.”