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Rebisco men’s volley getting its groove

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Rebisco bowed to AGMK on Saturday but dented the team from Uzbekistan with an opening-set win, 24-26, 25-23, 25-18, 25-19 win, in the 21st Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championship at the Terminal 21 competition hall in Nakhon Ratchasima.

Determined to rebound from last Friday’s 15-25, 22-25, 5-25 defeat at the hands of Iran’s Sirjan Foulad, the Filipinos displayed hustle in capturing the extended first set.

The Uzbeks levelled at 24-24, but Rebisco gained a point from the next rally through its opponent’s error and clinched the set courtesy of a Nico Almendras kill.

Jao Umandal scored three consecutive attacks to put the Filipinos to within 23-24 in the second set when AGMK showed poise to level the match at one set apiece.

The Uzbekistan Premier League champions then emerged triumphant in the next two sets as Rebisco, which entered the tournament armed with a two-month training, lost its rhythm.

“We are still overwhelmed with the situation where we see our performance slowly getting more and more competitive as the tournament progresses, especially after the long pause,” national coach Dante Alinsunurin said.

The Philippine National Volleyball Federation activated the national team program by holding tryouts in May and forming the teams, men and women, in June. However, because of lockdowns wrought by the pandemic, the national squads could only start face-to-face training two months ago.

“Although we lost today, the takeaway is that I have seen how everyone is able to deliver when called upon,” he said. “The friendly competition within the team will be much more intense now that I know whoever is needed will actually perform.”

Umandal led Rebisco with 19 points, including eight in the second set, while Almendras had 14 points in the first two sets but was scoreless in the third and sat out the fourth set. Mark Alfafara had seven points.

Kim Malabunga made four blocks, including three in the Filipinos’ first-set conquest.

Rebisco was efficient in offense with 54-of-108 attacks, with Umandal going 19 of 36 spikes and Alfafara tallying seven of 14 kills.

Setter Joshua Retamar, who contributed four points, admitted the team struggled to contain AGMK’s serves.

“I think we failed to get our A-game going in terms of serve receive and struggled to pass the ball,” Retamar said. “However, I think we were still able to adjust our plays and attacks.”

Rebisco, whose participation in the tournament is supported by the Philippine Sports Commission, Rebisco, Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano and Asics, hopes to achieve a breakthrough win against Qatar’s Al-Arabi Sports Club at 7:30 p.m. (Manila time) on Sunday.

AGMK was also coming off a 25-19, 18-25, 25-23, 23-25, 13-15 loss to Thailand’s Diamond Food on Friday