TOKYO — The Philippine men’s volleyball team salvaged the last set to eke out a 22-25, 21-25, 24-26, 20-25, 25-23 result over Fujitsu Red Spirits on Saturday at the Fujitsi Kawasaki Gym.
The Nationals continued to show their marked improvement as they put up a gallant stand in each set against Division 2’s top team in Japan V. Premier League in their third tune-up game made possible by Larong Volleyball Sa Pilipinas Inc and Philippine Sports Commission.
Although the Filipino Spikers only got the last of their five-set friendly, national team head coach Dante Alinsunurin was impressed with how his wards — led by Marck Espejo, Ranran Abdilla and Johnvic De Guzman — fought against the agile and hard-hitting Red Spirits.
“Malaking tulong sa amin na limang sets yung nangyari tapos kahit na sobrang bilis ang kalaban namin nakaadjust kami,” said Alinsunurin, who also drew good contributions from middle blockers Francis Saura and Kim Malabunga. “Nakita namin at napagaralan namin yung set play nila. Ang problema talaga masyadong matining yung depensa nila sa baba.”
The Rebisco-backed Filipino Spikers fell short of a comeback in the first three sets, especially in the third frame where they forced a deuce at 24-all only for the Japanese to nail the clutch hits.
Fujitsu dominated the fourth set but Philippines was never wavered as it led as much as 17-14 in the fifth set before the Spirits rallied back to tie the frame at 21. Espejo delivered the a pair of clutch off-speeds including Malabunga’s big block to reach setpoint, 24-22, before Saura’s attack gave the last laugh to the visiting team.
“Sabi ko sa kanila push lang natin sarili natin pagdating naman sa SEA Games di naman ganyan kabibilis at least dito nababasa natin kung ano yung ginagawa ng kalaban,” Alinsunurin said.
The national team coach also got the luxury of fielding all his three setters with Ish Polvorosa playing in the first two sets before he tested rookie Joshua Retamar in the remaining three sets, while veteran Jessie Lopez was fielded in the crucial parts of the game.
Lopez, the most veteran player of Alinsunurin, said the team’s system has been the reason behind their marked improvement every outing.
“‘Maganda yung composition tapos maganda yung strategy ni coach Dante na may kanya kanya kaming trabaho. Tactical,” he said. “Yung progress namin paangat kumbaga mahina yung kalaban namin nung una pero talo kami pero palakas kami ng palakas.”
Philippines will play its fourth straight tune-up game against Chiba Zelba on Sunday at the Kelai Gakuen Highschool before taking a breather on Monday, where they will only hold team practice as Bryan Bagunas is expected to join the squad.