BINAN CITY, Laguna – Foton Pilipinas had to sweat in saving seventh place through a hard-earned 25-17, 30-28, 25-23 straight sets conquest of T. Grand of Chinese Taipei on Sunday in the 2016 AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship at the Alonte Sports Arena.
The Tornadoes had a strong start but had to earn each point in the last two sets before crushing the tough-fighting Chinese, ending their campaign on a winning note in this prestigious continental battle organized by the Philippine Superliga, Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas and the city of Binan, headed by Congresswoman Len Alonte.
Earlier, Sarmayeh Bank of Iran dominated Thongtin Lienvietpost Bank of Vietnam, 25-23, 25-17, 25-23, to claim 5th place in this tourney bankrolled by SMM Sport, Nike, Senoh, Asics, Mikasa, Foton, BMW, Rexona, PLDT, Philippine Sports Commission and Price Waterhouse Cooper with Crimson Hotel as official residence and TV5 and SMMTV of Thailand as broadcast partners.
American reinforcements Lindsay Stalzer and Ariel Usher lit the scoreboard, but it was a total team effort on the defensive end that propelled the Philippines to improve on an 8th-place finish when Petron campaigned in the tournament’s previous edition in Phu Ly, Vietnam last year.
Stalzer delivered 18 kills, while Usher had 13 attacks and two blocks to finish with 15 points for the Tornadoes, who dominated the Taiwanese in attacks, 58-29, and blocks, 7-5.
“I think we were the stronger team today and we were able to control the game right from the start,” said Stalzer, who is also set to power Foton in the PSL Grand Prix that will open on Oct. 18.
Jaja Santiago, who hardly saw action in the third set after the Tornadoes gained total control of the game, admired the fighting spirit of the T. Grand, a team composed of the developmental team of Chinese Taipei.
“They are the youngest team in this tournament, but they never gave up. They displayed their big fighting hearts even when they’re down,” said the 6-foot-5 middle blocker who is recruited being recruited by a couple of club teams in this continental battle.
Foton Pilipinas’ Italian coach Fabio Menta admitted that the team fell below expectations due to its lack of experience playing in major international tournaments.
Foton Pilipinas was initially eyeing a semifinal finish. But after losing to Altay VC of Kazakhstan at the end of the second round and Ba’yi Shenzheng of China in the quarterfinals, the goal was downgraded to just 5th place.
Unfortunately, it suffered a four-set meltdown to Iran, sending it to a battle for 7th against the Taiwanese while heavyweights Bangkok Glass of Thailand and Altay VC of Kazakhstan dispute the bronze medal and Ba’yi Shenzheng of China and NEC Red Rockets of Japan clash for the crown.
Chiu Ya-Hui chalked 10 kills, two aces and a block for 13 points for the Taiwanese, who led by a hairline in the crucial stretch of the second set, 28-27, until Usher connected back to back kills followed by a running attack for the set point.
“The Philippine team is much taller than us,” said head coach Chung-Jen Lo. “After the first set, we tried to adjust in the second and third sets, but the Philippines is really a good team.”
“We are a young team and we came here to earn experience. Our players learned from here, playing against more matured players and learned how to cope with pressure playing in this kind of competition.”