MANILA (UPDATED) - The Philippines recovered from a slow start and displayed championship poise down the stretch to stun Australia in the classification phase of the AVC Cup for Women, Sunday at the Philsports Arena.
The Philippine national team, represented by the Creamline Cool Smashers, came away with a hard-earned 21-25, 25-19, 19-25, 25-18, 15-12 triumph against Australia to advance to the battle for fifth place.
It was another commendable effort for the Filipinas, who had less than 24 hours to recover from a four-set defeat to Thailand in the quarterfinals on Saturday night. They showed signs of weariness in the first set, but finished strong to outlast the taller Australian squad.
"'Yung experience sa mga ganoong situation, naranasan na naman nila 'yun eh. Just enjoy the game lang, then limit your basic errors lang," said Philippines coach Sherwin Meneses after their win.
"It was a lot of teamwork talaga. As in, noong padulo na nung game, everyone came together, everyone did their roles," said team captain and playmaker Jia De Guzman, who had four points and 32 excellent sets. "Talaga binuhos na talaga namin lahat today."
Reigning Premier Volleyball League (PVL) MVP Tots Carlos delivered 26 big points, while Jema Galanza came alive in the fourth and fifth frames to help the Philippines erase a one-set deficit. Celine Domingo contributed 15 points including three kill blocks.
Australia had the momentum after taking the third set, where they led by as much as 11 points. But the Filipinas adjusted by switching Carlos to her preferred position as opposite spiker, with veteran Rosemarie Vargas subbing in as the open hitter to help shore up the defense.
The move unlocked Galanza, who provided the clutch hits in Set 4. From a 17-all deadlock, the Filipinas won eight of the next nine rallies to snatch the win and force a decider. Galanza accounted for three points, including the sharp crosscourt hit that sparked their rally.
The Philippines trailed 8-6 in the deciding fifth frame when Galanza moved to the front row and promptly scored three straight points to give the home team back the lead, 9-8. It was a back-and-forth affair from there, with Australia tying the set at 12 off three consecutive hits by Stefanie Weiler.
But the Filipinas, battle-tested from their years of playing together in the PVL, were more composed down the stretch. Caitlin Tipping gave the Philippines the lead for good when she sent an attack wide, and Jeanette Panaga unleashed a quick hit that caught Australia off guard for match point.
Carlos wrapped up the win with a down-the-line hit that was contested by Australia coach Russell Borgeaud for an antenna touch. The review showed that it was a legal hit, and the Filipinas could finally celebrate after a two-hour, 31-minute battle.
"We really had to work for every point, every set in this game. Noong na-score na namin 'yung last point, I don't know, na-overwhelm lang talaga kami sa emotions," said De Guzman. "Hindi rin biro 'yung schedule namin. Ngayon lang din kami nakaranas ng ganito. Pero nilalaban talaga ng lahat, mapa-first six, mapa-bench, everyone is ready to play."
Tipping led Australia with 25 points, and Weiler finished with 17. Australia had a massive 12-4 advantage in block points, but the Filipinas made up for it with a 68-55 edge in kills. The Australians had a 10-3 lead in aces; the Filipinas, however, were able to clean up their passing in the pivotal fifth set.
The Philippines will play Chinese Taipei for fifth place in the tournament. Chinese Taipei earlier swept Iran, 25-23, 25-19, 25-17, to secure their place in the match. Three players scored in double-digits for Taipei, led by Huang Ching-Hsuan with 14 points while Kan Ko-Hui and Chen Tzu-Ya each had 10 points.
Meanwhile, it will be Australia vs. Iran for seventh place.