Volleyball team make history, advance to semis

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Cambodian volleyball player Pin Sarun (left) tries to spike against a wall of Philippines players during their indoor volleyball match in group B of the 31st SEA Games in Vietnam on Sunday. CAMSOC

The Cambodia National Indoor Volleyball team set a new record by qualifying in their group stage and advancing to the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) semi-finals – for the first time since 1983 – after Thailand defeated the Philippines in their Group B match on May 16.

Cambodia’s date with destiny in the quarter-finals was confirmed when eight-time champions Thailand recorded their victory in a 3-0 set (25-20, 29-27 and 25-22), sealing the fate of the Philippines as the weakest team in Group B, which has just three teams.

The victory means the Cambodian and Thai volleyball teams are already safe to advance to the knockout stages even before the two teams meet to decide first and second place in the group on May 18.

The Cambodian volleyball team showed everyone that they could choose their own fate and were on their way to making SEA Games history when they defeated the Philippines in their May 14 opening match.

“This is a historic result and our best record since we began competing in the SEA Games 39 years ago,” Aing Serey Piseth, secretary-general of the Volleyball Federation of Cambodia, told The Post on May 16 after the team’s place in the semis was confirmed.

“In the last two or three years, our team has grown and improved significantly. We have focused on regular training and completed a two-year training camp before entering this year’s games. I think the other ASEAN countries were concerned about our new-found strength after we beat 2019 silver medalists the Philippines on the opening day,” he added.

The Cambodian volleyball team has never qualified from the group stages of the SEA Games, but proved their mettle by defeating the Philippines in the opening match last weekend in a 3-1 win (25-21, 24-26, 30-28 and 29-27) and are now on their way to the next round. This result surprised fans in Cambodia, since they lost to hosts Philippines 3-0 at the 2019 games in its capital Manila.

“This time around, the leadership group of the Volleyball Federation and I – as well as the players in the indoor and beach volleyball teams – were determined to go to the 31st games and take a medal. We aren’t just here to gain experience as there has been enough talk of that over the years. This year we are confident of finding medals, and this remains our goal,” Sery Piseth added.

Monday’s result was also a sweet revenge for the Thai team, as they lost 3-2 to the host side at the 2019 games, before the Philippines went on to go down heavily 3-0 against nine-time champions Indonesia in the final.