June 03, 2024

Alas Pilipinas battle hard, fall to China in AVC Challenge Cup opener

Alas Pilipinas put up a valiant effort but ultimately fell in straight sets to higher-ranked China, 19-25, 22-25, 22-25, in their opening match of the 2024 AVC Challenge Cup for Men. The match, held at the Isa Sport City Hall in Bahrain, took place at midnight on Monday (Manila time).

Ranked 59th in the world, the Philippines dropped to 0-1 in the three-team Pool A, while 31st-ranked China surged to the top with a 1-0 record. Bahrain, ranked 67th, rounds out Pool A, and Alas will face the home team on Tuesday at midnight in a must-win match to keep their quarterfinal hopes alive.

The tournament format advances the top two teams from each of the four groups to the next round, while the bottom squads will compete in the ninth to 12th placement matches.

“It was a tough game. I know we just did our best and we fell short and made a lot of mistakes, but yeah, it was a good game,” said Nationals co-captain Marck Espejo, who scored eight points in the one-hour, 19-minute match.

Head coach Sergio Veloso emphasized the importance of learning from the experience. “This is the most important because, as I told my players, sometimes we win, but every time you need to learn, and China played a good match with strong servers,” Veloso said.

Co-captain Jau Umandal led the scoring for the Philippines with 10 points, while collegiate player Leo Ordiales also impressed with 10 points, including five in the opening frame. Kim Malabunga contributed five points, and Josh Ybañez, a two-time UAAP MVP as a spiker, made a solid debut as a libero.

Costly and untimely errors were Alas’ downfall, as they committed 26 miscues and lagged in the spiking and blocking departments, 37-43 and 2-5, respectively.

China’s 24-year-old star Zhang Jingyin led his team with 15 points on 14-of-19 attacks and one block. Team captain Jiang Chuan added 13 points on an efficient 12-of-16 in spikes, along with one service ace.

China will next face Bahrain on Wednesday at midnight, with a win securing their spot in the quarterfinals.


*Photo from AVC