Kingwhale-Taipei, a blend of young and veteran players, subdued Army Black Mamba with its power game behind Brazilian import Bea Flavio de Carvalho and gutsy plays in a couple of sets that went down-to-the-wire as it pounded out a 26-24, 25-18, 26-24 victory in a rousing Premier Volleyball League debut at the SM Mall of Asia Arena yesterday.
The Taiwanese saved a set point each in the first and third frames with a fine display of grace and composure while dominating the second to complete the one-hour, 30-minute romp that put the lone foreign guest squad on track of the finals while bundling out the Lady Troopers from the race.
The lefty Carvalho provided a menacing presence whenever she was on flight, banging in those vicious kills that often hit their targets to the delight of the crowd but to the chagrin of the Lady Troopers, who could not neutralize most of those blasts, one of which even hit Ivy Perez in the chest in the third set.
“This is the first time we mixed our young and veteran players in a tournament,” said Kingwhale coach Teng Yen-Min, who drew double-digit outputs from three starters with Carvalhoo finishing with 15, including 13 attack points.
“We’re happy the PVL invited us. In our first game against Army, we felt good,” added Teng, whose wards also kept their excitement in check throughout the encounter.
“This was also the first time that we played in a big gym because there’s nothing this in Taiwan. We are just excited to play more games in this tournament,” Teng said.
The visiting squad finished with 47 attack points, 17 more than the Lady Troopers, who actually produced more blocks and aces, 7-5, 2-1, respectively, and scored 27 points off Kingwhale miscues while yielding 24 points of their own.
Army fought back from big deficits in the first and third sets but just couldn’t unleash the strong finishing kick to snatch a win. They moved to match point at 24-23 in the opener but yielded the next three points on a Carvalho kill, a block off Jovelyn Gonzaga and another hit from Chen Li-Jun.
A Gonzaga blast ended a long rally that featured furious exchanges of hits and saves with libero Angela Nunag diving to keep the ball in play that led to the Cebuana ace’s hit that made it 24-23 for Army in the third. But like in the previous frame, the Lady Troopers failed to step up as Chang Chih-Hsuan took over with a couple of kills that sandwiched Wang Yu-Wen’s key block off Jem Gutierrez.
Wang and Cheng produced 10 points apiece while Chen Chieh and Tsai Qin-Yao chipped in six hits each and Chang added five points for Kingwhale, which expects to get better and stronger as it tangles with PLDT in a lone match set at 4 p.m. today (Tuesday), also at the Pasay venue.
“I feel happy with the fight that we gave,” said Teng. “Hopefully, we could play better against PLDT tomorrow (today).”
Gonzaga’s eight-point output proved to be the best that Army could produce as Honey Royes Tubino struggled all day trying to find her rhythm, ending up with just two points. Perez and Michelle Morente had five hits apiece while Gutierrez and Audrey Paran finished with four points apiece.
With a fourth straight loss, Army bowed out of the finals race.
Kobe Shinwa of Japan was scheduled to join Kingwhale in the semifinal round of the mid-season offering of the league organized by Sports Vision. But one player tested positive for Covid before their departure, forcing the entire team to call off its participation and reducing the semis cast to five teams.