Marck Espejo and FC Tokyo suffered a stinging loss to defending champions Suntory Sunbirds, 24-26, 22-25, 25-23, 25-21, 11-15, at the start of their 2021-22 Japan V. League campaign at the Sky Arena on Saturday (16 October).
Espejo, who returned to Japan following his stints in Thailand and Bahrain, nailed 10 attacks and two aces to finish with 12 points for FC Tokyo, the second Japanese club to tap his services after Oita Miyoshi in the 2018-19 Season.
FC Tokyo relied on Yuga Nagamoto, Kvaren Jones and Espejo to come back from two sets down and force a decider, after Suntory controlled the tempo out of the opening.
Staring at a 9-13 deficit in the final set, Espejo - one of the finest products of Philippine volleyball - instigated a scoring spurt that trimmed the deficit down to two. That, however, proved to be FC Tokyo's last hurrah as the Sunbirds rained down two consecutive attacks to ice the game for good.
FC Tokyo will attempt to get back at Suntory when both club teams face off anew on Sunday.
Ohmer Bautista is a sports journalist who has covered local and international sporting events in the Philippines. The views expressed are his own.