Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Power Pinoys beat Mongolia, open Asian volley bid on high note

Games Wednesday:

(MOA Arena)

12 nn – Iran vs Japan

2 p.m. – Oman vs Hong Kong

4 p.m. – Turkmenistan vs Kazakhstan

(Cuneta Astrodome)

4 p.m. – China vs Taipei

6 p.m. –- UAE vs Papua New Guinea

MANILA, Philippines – The loudest cheers came when popular actor Richard Gomez checked in late in the second set. It almost turned into a death knell for the Philippines' PLDT Home TVolution.

With the exception of that forgettable second set stretch when the Mongolians almost turned things around, the Power Pinoys dominated their visiting foes with an emphatic 25-13, 25-23, 25-16 victory to jumpstart their ambitious bid in the Asian Men's Volleyball Club Championship presented by PLDT Home Fibr Tuesday.

Cheered on by a decent-sized crowd at the MOA Arena where Filipino fans witnessed the biggest ever international men's volleyball the country hosted, the Nationals didn't disappoint after displaying an aggressive attacking brand of play centered on Australian imports Cedric LeGrand and William Lewis.

Lewis provided the excellent setting with some extra service aces to boot while the crisp-hitting LeGrand, a member of the 2008 Australian indoor team who emerged the Most Valuable Player in the Victorian Premier League, unleashed entertaining power spikes and finished with a match-high 18 hits, 17 of which coming off attacks.

It left Mongolia, which is not really known for its volleyball, scampering for those LeGrand kills and eventually to its first loss in this tournament backed by Mikasa, Healthway Medical, Maynilad, Gerflor Spurway, Senoh Equipment, STI, PSC, Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, Pasay City Mayor Antonino Calixto and MMDA Chairman lawyer Francis Tolentino.

After handily taking care of business in the opening set and zooming to another fast, 22-13 start in the second, Phl coach Francis Vicente sent in the 47-year-old Gomez, who served his fourth tour of duty with the national team being a former national fencer, shooter and rowing, that elicited loud cheers from the crowd.

It didn't last long as Mongolia pounced on the spot where Gomez stood and strung together seven of the last eight points as it clawed its way back and cut its once insurmountable deficit to just 23-20.

When Kheeno Franco was reinserted into the game for Gomez, Mongolia kept the momentum and the pressure as it closed the gap even further, 23-24, before skipper Ariunbayar Munkhbayar's faulty service allowed the Filipinos to escape with the second set win.

And then it was a LeGrand and Lewis show all over again.

"Cedric (LeGrand) was very impressive, he kept his promise of playing hard and helping Phl volleyball win this tournament. William (Lewis) too," said Vicente.

Abdilla provided the needed hand as he contributed 12 hits including 11 on spikes with Peter Torres, the former UAAP MVP from National U who was inserted into the team line up in the last minute, chipped in five of his own.

The win pushed the Power Pinoys half a step closer to quarters and another triumph Thursday against Iraq will clinch a sweep of Group A while catapulting it straight to the next round.

Vicente pointed to their speed as the main key.

"Speed was the main factor that carried us in this game. We're not that tall, but we have the speed that's why it was hard for our opponents to beat us. We used our speed to our advantage and it rewarded us with this victory," he said.

All games by the Philippine Team, also known as the Power Pinoys or the PLDT Home TVolution team, will be televised live on TV5, the official broadcast partner of the AMCC. The tournament also has Magic 89.9, Wave 89.1, Jam 88.3, Play 99.5 and KLite 103.5 as radio partners.

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