LOS BAÑOS -- The Philippines is not known as a major force in indoor hockey.
In fact, at the close of the elimination round at the Centtro Mall and Convention Center here, the country women's team finished with the worst goal difference of minus-20 and the most goals conceded with 24 highlighted by a 0-15 loss to Malaysia to start its campaign.
But despite all those unpleasant stats, the Philippines punched a ticket to the semifinals of the said event thanks to favorable results over the weekend.
The Philippines scored a huge 4-3 victory over Cambodia on Saturday night to bolster its last gasp to the medal rounds.
The host team eventually locked up the semifinal seat after Cambodia lost to Malaysia, 0-10 in its final assignment on Sunday night.
"Actually, di namin akalain [ito] kasi masyado pang bata ng team (we did not expect it because this is a very young team," Leo Rivera, the assistant coach of the team, told the Philippine News Agency.
Rivera, who is helping Iranian head coach Hamidreza Bokharaie Kashi, bared that only five of their players have two years of experience, basically saying that the core of the squad is relatively new to the team.
"Meron nga dyan sa lineup na four months lang nag-training (Actually we have in the line-up who just started training four months ago," Rivera added.
To attest to the youthfulness of the team, in the eventual do-or-die game against Cambodia, the Philippines squandered a 3-1 halftime lead and only won thanks to a Maria Castillo penalty corner goal with only 40 seconds left in the game.
That is why he believes the team's semifinal qualification -- which comes along with an assured bronze medal -- is a will from God.
"Para sa akin, binigay na ni God para makuha yung bronze (For me, it’s the will of God that we won bronze)," Rivera further said.
The Philippines will take on Malaysia again in the semifinals on Monday night, and based on their first meeting, Malaysia is expected to cruise past the home side again.
But despite that, Rivera believes this breakthrough assured bronze will spark the Philippines' surge in indoor hockey.
"Sana ito na yung una (I hope this would be the start)," he concluded. (PNA)