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PH volleybelles blow 2-1 lead, fall to Indonesia in ASEAN Grand Prix

The Philippine women's volleyball team fell short in the opening game of the 2019 ASEAN Grand Prix as Indonesia prevailed in five sets, 25-21, 26-28, 12-25, 25-18, 15-9, at the Terminal 21 Mall in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand.

The Filipina spikers gained momentum in the second and third sets to build a 2-1 lead but the Indonesians bounced back in the last two periods to seal the win.

This is the Philippine team's first competition after a 12-day training camp in Bangkok as part of their build-up for the 30th Southeast Asian Games that will kick off this November in Manila.

Ces Molina led the way with 18 points built on 16 spikes and two blocks. Majoy Baron finished with 17 points highlighted by five blocks, while Kalei Mau debuted for the national team with 15 points.

Down by as many as seven points in Set 1, the Philippines rallied to inch within four, 20-16, following a crosscourt kill from Molina. Indonesia regained control and turned it into a 24-17 advantage. The Philippines saved four set points, including back-to-back hits from Mau, but a service error by Molina ended the late charge and gifted the set to Indonesia.

The Philippines raced to a 5-2 edge in Set 2 but their own errors helped Indonesia shift the momentum. From an 8-7 lead, the Indonesians stayed in control until a quick from Baron and a block from Molina forced a 21-all deadlock. A back-and-forth affair ensued with Maddie Madayag and Mau pushing the Philippines to 26-25 before Indonesia's errors capped off the extended set.

It was the Indonesians' turn to play catch up in Set 3. Madayag's running plays, Baron's net defense, and Mau's aggressive attacks sparked a dominant run that built an insurmountable 22-10 advantage. Indonesia managed two more points before another runner from Madayag and back-to-back kills from Mau gave the Filipinos a 2-1 lead in the match.

The Filipinas, however, failed to finish the job as Indonesia controlled Sets 4 and 5. The Philippines tightened its net defense to try to claw back from a 6-2 deficit in the decider. Mylene Paat and Baron joined forces to make it a one-point disadvantage, 7-6, but that was the closest that the Philippines got as Indonesia ran off with a blistering 8-3 closing run.

Aside from Molina, Baron, Mau, Madayag, and Paat, the Philippines is represented by team captain Aby MaraƱo, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Jovelyn Gonzaga, Eya Laure, Roselyn Doria, liberos Dawn Macandili and Kath Arado, and setters Jia Morado and Alohi-Robins-Hardy.

National team mainstay Alyssa Valdez is notably missing from the lineup due to an ankle injury.

The Philippines will take on Thailand on Saturday before facing Vietnam on Sunday to continue its campaign in the first leg of the inaugural competition.

The Philippines will host the second leg on October 4-6 in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.