FORMED late and given little time to prepare, the Philippines answered the call for national team duty without condition and charged straight into the Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) Cup head on with only this one little weapon called hope.
It sprung eternal.
Summoning its last remaining strength, the weary Filipinas clawed their way out of a grave and outlasted the taller Australians, 21-25, 25-19, 19-25, 25-18, 15-12, to essay its best performance in AVC Cup history before a loud and decent Sunday crowd at the PhilSports Arena.
Represented by reigning Premier Volleyball League Invitational champion Creamline, the Nationals fought off fatigue and relied on willpower alone to rally their way back from what looked like massive deficits, including midway in the fifth and final set when the Aussies led, 8-6.
But the power hitting but hurting Jema Galanza went on a killing spree and scored three straight points that sparked the decisive run.
Tots Carlos, Pangs Panaga and Ced Domingo joined the onslaught in powering the host country into a battle of fifth place with Chinese Taipei, which trounced Iran, 25-23, 25-19, 25-17, earlier, today.
But regardless of the result of that duel, the nation have already exceeded expectations and would end up with their best effort in the event after placing ninth four years ago in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand.
And the squad did it despite all the tribulations it faced — a missed game by coach Sherwin Meneses and setter Jia de Guzman due to health reasons, the little preparation and the absence of its heart and soul Alyssa Valdez due to dengue.
It also cautioned the impact of the team’s stinging 25-18, 23-25, 25-20, 25-9 defeat it suffered at the hands of Southeast Asian power Thailand the day before.
Meneses and De Guzman summed it all. “They’re all fighters,” said Meneses.
“We’re all feeling something but no one complained, everyone just wants to step up and do their roles,” said De Guzman, who had 32 excellent sets and four points.
Carlos was nothing less than breathtaking as she unleashed a match-best 26 points despite being relentlessly hounded by taller, long-limbed blockers while Galanza and Domingo scattered 18 and 15 hits, respectively.
The rest was pure heart. — Joey Villar