Espejo leads PH in sweep of Cambodia in men's volleyball opener

Philippines sweeps Cambodia in men's volleyball (0:31)

The Philippine men's volleyball team swept Cambodia, 29-27, 25-17, 25-17 to kick off its Southeast Asian Games campaign. (0:31)

The Philippine men's volleyball team swept Cambodia, 29-27, 25-17, 25-17 to kick off its 30th Southeast Asian Games campaign Monday at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.

The 19-year-old Joshua Retamar starred in his debut for the national team, delivering crucial plays on both offense and defense to help with the victory.

The incoming sophomore setter from the NU Bulldogs finished with 15 excellent sets and 11 points, highlighted by six kill blocks, in front of an ecstatic home crowd.

"I'm really happy because this is my first game for the country. I will continue to do my best to make everyone happy," Retamar said in Filipino.

The power duo of Marck Espejo and Bryan Bagunas also flexed their might, leading the attack for the Philippines.

Espejo delivered a game-high 21 points built on 16 spikes, four aces, and a block on top of eight receptions. Bagunas, on the other hand, contributed 14 points including four blocks.

The Philippines came back from an early deficit and escaped a tight encounter in the extended opening set. Cambodia got the set point three times before Retamar took over in the clutch. He tied the score at 27 with a drop ball before putting the finishing blow with a kill block.

The Philippines relied on its solid net defense to turn back Cambodia in the second set, establishing an 8-0 block advantage to pull away. The home team led by as many as seven points before cruising to an eight-point triumph.

Bagunas and Espejo joined forces again in the third set, aided by timely running attacks from Kim Malabunga and key aces from Retamar. The Philippines closed out with an 8-1 rally to seal the win.

"We struggled in the first set because of our slow start. Maybe because it's our first game so we're still adjusting to each other," said Espejo. "We were able to recover in the latter part. We built huge leads in the second and third sets, but the errors are still there. We'll try to fix our problems in practice tomorrow."

The Philippines, which belongs in Pool B, will face Vietnam on Wednesday and Indonesia on Friday to continue the preliminary round. Thailand, Myanmar, and Singapore are competing in Pool A. Only the top two teams in each pool will advance to the semifinals.