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Phl ekes out 5-setter over Mongolia

TEAM Philippines erupts in celebration following a hard-fought win over Mongolia. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF AVC

The Philippines found Mongolia one tough nut to crack but managed to pull off a hard-earned, 22-25, 25-21, 26-24, 23-25, 15-12, victory and sweep Pool D of the Asian Volleyball Confederation Challenge Cup for Men yesterday at the Taipei Gymnasium in Taiwan.

The Filipino spikers unleashed a 5-0 closing salvo after trailing by two late in the fifth set to emerge unscathed after two outings in the elimination round for the pool’s top seeding heading into the knockout Final 12.

Once again red-hot Marck Espejo led the way for the Nationals, who are still waiting for their opponent in the next round as of press time. The Final 12 action is scheduled tomorrow.

Boosted by their fourth-set bounce back that set up a decider, the Mongolians looked in control of the fifth frame and even took a 12-10 lead.

But the Nationals quickly turned the tables around scoring back-to-back points before Espejo put the Filipinos up, 13-12, with a slicing back row attack.

Rex Intal, who like Espejo made a national team comeback after skipping the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia two months ago, got a monster kill block to put the Philippines at match point.

Disorganized and stunned, Mongolia threw away its chance to mount a comeback with a costly error to end the match.

With Espejo leading the charge, the Filipinos were able to recover from a bad start that saw them surrender the opening set.

The Nationals found their rhythm in the second frame keeping the Mongolians at bay to tie the match before essaying a great escape in the extended second set. The taller Mongolians spoiled the Nationals’ party as they fought back in the fourth set to force a decider.

Mongolia finished the pool play with a 1-1 win-loss slate.

The Philippines opened its campaign with a sweep of Macau last Sunday.

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