THE Philippine men’s volleyball team powered by Bryan Bagunas and Steve Rotter displayed athleticism to sweep Afghanistan, 25-23, 25-16, 25-12, on Wednesday for a historic win in the Hangzhou 19th Asian Games at the Deqing Sports Gymnasium in Hangzhou, China.
Bagunas, one of the veterans in the squad that won a silver in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in Manila, was an unstoppable force while Rotter contributed huge in the offense as the Philippines improved to 1-1 win-loss record in Pool F.
Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF) President Ramon “Tats” Suzara congratulated the boys for establishing the country’s first victory after 49 years in the continental sporting event and hoping they sustain the momentum.
“I’m happy that the men’s has improved a lot under coach Sergio [Veloso]. With the experience of our players like Bagunas, our team displayed toughness,” Suzara told BusinessMirror on Wednesday. “This win is great sign of a promising campaign for Philippine volleyball overseas.”
The last victory of the Filipinos was against the Pakistan in 1974 Asian Games in Tehran, Iran.
Bagunas delivered 16 points on top of 14 kills in addition to his block and service point, while the Filipino-American Rotter fired 13 points to help the Filipinos bounced back from a tough 22-25, 23-25, 20-25 defeat to defending Southeast Asian Games champion Indonesia on Tuesday.
The Philippines, however, is facing a gargantuan task to try to secure a spot in the Round of 16 when it takes on a formidable World No. 5 Japanese squad on Thursday night. Only the top two squads from each of the six brackets will go to the knockout phase.
Lloyd Josafat contributed eight points and Jau Umandal added seven points plus 13 receptions to support the Filipinos in disposing the Afghans in just one hour and six minutes.
Marck Espejo played only in the third set and scored six points, five receptions and three digs.
The Filipinos had a hard time pulling away against Afghanistan in the first set despite taking a 24-21 cushion. Rotter suffered two errors in the offensive end, allowing the Afghans to come closer by a point but Bagunas scored two consecutive kills to take the first set.
From thereon, the Filipinos coached by Brazilian tactician Sergio Veloso controlled the last two sets, including a 16-8 lead in third set, to score the huge first win after almost five decades.
Afghanistan stayed winless in Pool F after two games to fall at the last fourth place. Gulam Rasool Haidari led Afghanistan with eight points.