MANILA, Philippines – An undermanned Pilipinas Blue team overcame a two-set deficit to stun Pilipinas Red, 19-25, 22-25, 25-19, 25-15, 15-10, in the "Clash of Heroes" fundraiser on Monday at FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Only 15 players showed up for the women's volleyball match, which national team coach Francis Vicente called "the ultimate test" of the players' commitment to the national team.
Skipping the event where Premier Volleyball League players Alyssa Valdez, Grethcel Soltones, Myla Pablo and Elaine Kasilag, who were barred by their clubs from attending. On the day of the game itself, it was revealed the players from Philippine Superliga (PSL) clubs F2 Logistics and Cignal did not attend as well.
That left only 15 players to be distributed between the two teams, with Mika Reyes and Ces Molina leading the way for the Blue team and Jaja Santiago and Rhea Dimaculangan leading the Red side.
Behind the towering Santiago, Pilipinas Red surged to a two-set lead, and was down by just two points, 14-16, in the third frame when it fell apart behind a series of errors, allowing Pilipinas Blue to extend the match. It was also Set 3 that Molina began to assert herself, and her sharp kills proved unstoppable even for Pilipinas Red's tall frontline.
Pilipinas Red's error-prone ways continued in the fourth set, with Santiago committing several attack faults, while Dimaculangan was called for a double contact, part of a 6-0 Blue run that turned an 18-14 lead into a 24-14 advantage.
With momentum firmly on its side, Pilipinas Blue raced to a 10-2 lead in the deciding fifth set, though Pilipinas Red came as close as three points, 10-13, after back-to-back errors by CJ Rosario and Roselle Baliton.
But Shaya Adorador – a late invite to the event – came through with a clutch down-the-line kill, and Baliton made up for her earlier setting error by firing up an ace that served as the match-winner.
"Aminado naman ako na medyo dehado kami," said Reyes, who scattered 17 points on 10 attacks, three blocks, and four aces. "Hindi siguro even 'yung pag-distribute ng players, kasi kulang."
"Siyempre, ayaw naman naming pabayaan na tambakan lang kami, so sabi ko sa kanila na enjoy lang," she added.
Molina led all scorers with 20 points, while Adorador added 13 for Pilipinas Blue. They also pounced on the Red team's wobbly reception to score 15 aces in the match.
Santiago scored 19 points on 15 attacks, three aces, and a block, but she also committed several attack errors that helped Pilipinas Blue claw their way back. No other player for the Red side finished in double-digits.
Afterward, Vicente simply hailed the players who showed up for the "Clash of Heroes" amidst all the bickering and finger-pointing the past week.
"I do appreciate these players na ang focus nila is for the country," he said. "Very appreciative ako sa kanila, na andito sila, lalo na si Mika. Alam naman natin na busy din ito, pero andito siya."
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