AVC Challenger Cup for Men 2023: PH succumbs to Bahrain, bids goodbye to VNL 2024

Philippines' Joshua Umandal against Bahrain's three blockers in their match
PHOTO: Asian Volleyball Confederation/Facebook
The Philippine men's national volleyball team (PMNVT) crashed out of the quarterfinals after succumbing to Bahrain, 25-20, 25-17, 25-23, in the 2023 Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) Challenge Cup for Men 2023 Final 12 at University of Taipei on Wednesday, July 11.
The humbling defeat ultimately eliminated the nationals from contending for the lone slot allocated for an AVC team to qualify for the 2023 International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) Men's Challenger Cup.
This year's FIVB Challenger Cup serves as the qualifying stage for the 2024 Volleyball Nations League.
Countries already qualified for the Challenger Cup are host Qatar, VNL 2023 relegated team China, Chile, Tunisia, Dominican Republic, Turkey, and Ukraine.
Bahrain showed no signs of remorse, giving the Philippines a dose of their strong service game, solid blocking, and efficient attacks.
Mahmood Alafyah, setter, nailed six of the 10 aces registered by the Gulf nation, while outside hitter Mohammed Yaqoob had three. The Philippines sneaked two only, courtesy of playmaker Vince Mangulabnan.
If the Philippines got lucky in receiving those powerful serves, Bahrain's net defense did a good job neutralizing or shutting down their predictable attacks. Last year's bronze medalist posted 11 blocks, seven more than the Filipinos tallied, with four from middle blocker Abbas Al Khabbaz.
Sergio Veloso-mentored Philippines won the attacking department with 34, as Yusuf Khalifa's side was a spike shy, but still not enough to compensate for their poor serve reception and little to unfelt net defense.
RP team tried to force a fourth set to no avail, which relegated them to the 7th-12th classification phase.
The Philippines in Set 1 alone already felt the damage dealt by Mahmood and company from the service line, which threw their game off. If not for the effectiveness of Filipino hits, they wouldn't reach 20 points.
With Mahmood serving, he made life uncomfortable for Philippine receivers. Bahrain broke loose in the second set en route to a one-sided victory.
Both sides exchanged blows in the third set not until the Bahraini squad seized the driver's seat down the stretch, 20-16.
Bahrain stretched their lead to 23-18 before committing three errors to leave the door open for the Philippines.
Mahmood Ahmed Abdulwahed scored against the Filipino three-men block to put his national team at match point, 24-21, but Espejo fired back to keep the Filipinos' fourth set bid alive, followed by an attack mistake from Bahrain.
Unfortunately, the Philippines failed to take advantage of the break opportunity their opposition provided as Ryan Ka's hit went wide.
Umandal paced the nationals with nine points, while Malabunga and Espejo added seven and six markers each.
The loss came after the Filipino spikers topped Pool D with an unscathed 2-0 win-loss record.
The Philippines routed Macau, 25-21, 25-15, 25-14, to announce its AVC debut before surviving Mongolia in a thrilling five-setter match, 22-25, 25-21, 26-24, 23-25, 15-12, with Espejo exploding for a game-high 36 points built on 29 attacks, five aces, and two blocks. (READ: AVC Challenge Cup for Men 2023: Marck Espejo explodes for 36, helps PH escape Mongolia in five-set thriller)
Fil-American opposite spiker Steven Rotter backstopped Espejo in the nationals' triumph over the Mongolians with 18 markers from 16 attacks and two blocks.
Against Bahrain, Rotter was limited to four points.

Last Modified: 2024-Jul-15 04.37 +0800