Pinay spikers finish 9th in U-18 Asian tilt

The national youth squad capped its campaign with a 25-21, 25-19, 25-12 win over India to finish ninth in the 14th Asian Women’s U18 Volleyball Championship Monday at the Nakhon Pathom Sports Center Gymnasium in Thailand.,Katherine Cortez displayed superb playmaking while Rhose Viane Almendralejo and Dona Mae de Leon chipped in significant numbers to help the Filipinos come up with a gallant stand in this prestigious tourney where Asia’s best young players are seeing action.,A product of Bacolod Tay Tung High School, Cortez registered 26 excellent sets to emerge as Player of the Game.,“I am happy and grateful with the opportunity to play for flag and country,” Cortez said.,“I must admit I was really nervous because it is the Philippines that we are representing, not just our school or Western Visayas.”,Almendralejo bannered the country’s scoring parade with 16 points while De Leon and Ana Francesca Hermosura chipped in 12 and nine hits, respectively, for the squad mentored by College of Saint Benilde tactician Jerry Yee.,Forced to a tight opening battle against the taller, heftier Indians in the opening set, the Filipinas caught fire late in the set with Almendralejo, Hermosura and Jothea Ramos conniving to reach the set point, 24-20.,India started the second set strong with an early 10-7 lead, but the Philippines quickly turned things around at 20-16 with attacks from Almendralejo and De Leon before unloading five straight points to close the set.,With victory already in sight, Team Philippines went on a scorching start in the third set to build a 19-9 advantage.,After consecutive points by the Indians, the Nationals went for the kill with Hermosura and De Leon piercing the defense with powerful smashes to seal the victory.,Team manager Jose Montalbo said representing the country despite the very short notice is truly a memorable experience.,“Our team was the youngest in the tournament. Most of them were 17 years old and below. In fact, our average age of our Philippine players was 15 years old,” said Montalbo, the uncle of professional cager Kib Montalbo.,“This was truly a one-of-a-kind opportunity for all of us, especially for our student-athletes.”