THE Philippines and a hurting Alyssa Valdez put up a gallant fight before bowing to Iran, 25-22, 25-22, 19-25, 25-20, on Friday to open its campaign in the 2015 Rebisco Asian Under-23 Women’s Volleyball Championship.
Playing through an injured right hand, Valdez led a telling run that enabled the Philippines to win the third set and bring hope to a raucous home crowd at the PhilSports Arena that cheered on the home team every step of the way.
However, Iran, led by team captain Mahsa Saberi, regained its bearings in the fourth set to overcome the Philippines’ charge and win its debut in Pool A of the tournament also presented by PLDT Home and Smart.
Valdez sustained an injury in her right hand after a block attempt on an Iranian spiker in the second set. The team skipper played on after doctors taped her wrist, but was noticeably in pain during attacks and blocks.
Still, the two-time UAAP MVP out of Ateneo spearheaded a 5-0 run that turned a 16-14 lead into a 21-14 advantage in the third set. Jia Morado scored to give the Filipina spikers the victory, 25-19.
Valdez scored a game-high 31 points to lead the way for the Philippine team. Jaja Santiago added 13 for the Nationals, who were left to rue their 40 errors in the match.
“We expect them to fight,” said national coach Roger Gorayeb. “They took a gallant stand. But when you have a big heart, nothing is impossible.”
“We were almost there. But we had elementary errors. ‘Yung pagiging inexperience namin, ayaw namin lumabas kanina."
Saberi had 16 points for the Iranians, who also got 14 from Mahsa Kadkhoda.
The Philippines hopes to salvage its campaign in a match on Saturday against Kazakhstan.