By John James Girao

PHOTO: Asian Volleyball Confederation

Team Philippines’ Choco Mucho encountered the full-bore arsenal of seasoned Nakhon Ratchasima, suffering a 11-25, 26-28, 17-25 loss, which spoiled its 2021 Asian Women’s Club Volleyball Championship campaign opener on Friday afternoon at the Terminal 21 Hall in Thailand.

The Filipinas, which played with a slightly different roster as Mary Joy Baron and Kianna Dy got switched to Team Rebisco after four of its players failed to get clearance to see action due to additional health protocols, fought valiantly in the second set but fell to the much shorter Thai team in the face of superstars in prized setter Nootsara TomKom, Kuttika Kaewpin and Chatchu-on Moksri.

“This is our first game so we’re a little stiff. We’ll always have improvements,” MJ Phillips said in the post-game interview.

“This COVID, for some of the ladies it’s been two years, they haven’t played for a while so we’re shaking off the rust but we’re gonna get back to it,” the Sta. Lucia Lady Realtor wing spiker added.

Reeling from a stinging first-set loss, the tricolor squad bounced back ferociously in the second frame with Deanna Wong orchestrating the team’s weapon, replacing starter setter Iris Tonelada.

Choco Mucho showed some bright spots in the outstretched rallies as they tried to equalize the set with the Fil-Am hitter Kalei Mau bombarding three straight points courtesy of a crosscourt hit, a down-the-line attack, and a kill block, 24-22.

However, it was the two costly errors from the Pinays and a crosscourt attack by Kannika Thipatchot gave Nakhon the lead but PAF’s Dell Palomata nailed a quick attack before Mylene Paat unloaded a kill to regain the lead, 26-25.

Kaewpin, who played for Creamline in the Premier Volleyball League, then worked with Thipachot and Moksri to deliver three straight points of the extended set to put the Thais on the cusp of completing the game with a sweep, 28-26.

From that, the powerhouse Thai team continued to dominate the rest of the way, opening a huge margin in the third frame.

Down, 15-24, the Odjie Mamon-driven tried to pump life for a comeback bid after saving three match points but it was too late as the hosts held firm to its lead and whittled away with Wanitchaya Luangtonglang sealing the Philippines’ fate with an off-the-block kill, 25-17.

Moksri was the offensive storm after tallying 20 points built on 18 spikes, a block, and a service ace as Thipachot chimed in with 14 markers in the tussle that took 1 hour and 19 minutes to complete.

Mau, meanwhile, poured 12 points including a kill block in a losing cause.

The Philippines will look to crack into the winner’s circle against Zhetyssu of Kazakhstan tomorrow at 1:30 pm.