BIÑAN CITY: Foton Pilipinas failed to pick itself up from a slow start and surrendered a heart-crushing 18-25, 21-25, 25-12, 22-25 setback to Sarmayeh Bank of Iran in the classification battle for 5th to 8th places of the 2016 AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship Saturday at the Alonte Sports Arena on Saturday.
Save for a gallant stand in the third set, the Tornadoes were a picture of frustration as they fell to a maze of errors early on, allowing the Iranians to gain momentum and punch the crucial win in this continental battle organized by the Philippine Superliga, Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. and the city government of Binan headed by Congresswoman Len Alonte.
Meanwhile, Thongtin Lienvietpost Bank of Vietnam crushed T. Grand of Chinese Taipei, 25-14, 25-15, 25-14, to gain the right to face the Iranians in the battle for 5th to 6th places of this tourney bankrolled by SMM Sport, Nike, Senoh, Asics, Mikasa, Foton, BMW, Rexona, PLDT, Philippine Sports Commission and Price Waterhouse Cooper with Crimson Hotel as official residence and TV5 and SMMTV of Thailand as official broadcast partners.
The Tornadoes, for their part, were relegated to the dispute for 7th to 8th places in the penultimate day on Sunday.
Reinforcement Lindsay Stalzer was the lone bright spot for the Philippines, finishing with 16 kills, a block and an ace for 18 points while Jaja Santiago chipped in 11 hits for the Foton Pilipinas head coach Fabio Menta, who opted to give more exposure to second stringers EJ Laure, Maika Ortiz and Angeli Araneta in the pivotal stretch of the match.
“I’m not disappointed on the whole thing. But I’m disappointed for failing to get the fifth place (target),” said Menta, who was eyeing to lead the Tornadoes to become the first local club to finish better than the 6th place finish tallied by Accel in 2006.
“The team is not mature enough to handle this kind of international pressure. Despite the loss, we still showed that we could match the level of intensity of a national team like Iran.”
With Aby Marano and Jovelyn Gonzaga failing to find their groove, Foton Pilipinas donated 12 points to Sarmayeh Bank in the first set due to turnovers before Menta inserted Laure and Ortiz while making some minor adjustments in the latter part of the second set to turn things around.
With Laure helping Stalzer at the attack zone, the Tornadoes raced to a 13-7 start before Ortiz plunged in and towed the home squad to a safe 22-10 advantage.
“In the third set, the Philippine team decided to give everything to try and win so we gave them the set to keep out focus on the fourth set,” said Sarmayeh Bank’s coach Cicic Majda of Serbia, who is looking to give the Iranians an impressive finish they finished dead last in the tournament’s previous edition in Phu Ly, Vietnam.
True enough, the Iranians came out firing in the fourth set.
But after falling behind by two, 16-18, Laure towed the Tornadoes closer, 22-24.
Unfortunately, setter Rhea Dimaculangan committed a major blunder, prompting officials to award the victory to the Iranians.
“I knew they didn’t know EJ and Maika, so I decided to change the game plan and we dominated the third set. But if you dominate the third set like that, you’re not supposed to lose the next set and the game,” said Menta, who failed to draw significant production from Marano, Gonzaga and import Ariel Usher.
“But the good news is Iran is 45th in the world. But we can play at the same level which means we are doing something good.”
Farnoosh Shiekkhi led the scoring parade with 17 hits while Mahsa Kadkhoda and Esfahani Maedeh Borhani delivered 16 and 10 points, respectively, for the Iranians, who paraded the core of their national team.