Philippines ends ASEAN Grand Prix first leg with win over Vietnam

The Philippines finished third in the first leg of the 2019 ASEAN Grand Prix after surviving a tough five-setter against Vietnam, 25-21, 22-25, 25-21, 15-25, 15-12, Sunday at in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand.

Kalei Mau delivered the finishing blow that towed the Philippines to its breakthrough win. Thailand and Indonesia are set to battle for the top spot, while Vietnam remained winless and ended in the bottom of the four-team competition.

Mylene Paat came out firing as she unleashed 22 points built on 14 spikes, four blocks, and four aces. Mau added 16 points including the game-winner, while Majoy Baron and Ces Molina combined for 27 points highlighted by 10 blocks.

The Philippines capitalized on Vietnam's attack errors to build a 6-3 cushion in Set 5. Jia Morado's consecutive drop balls helped the Philippines stay ahead, 9-6, but Tran Thi Thanh Thuy and Bui Thi Nga conspired to force a 9-all deadlock. Baron blocked Thuy for a 12-10 lead but Thuy quickly made up for it with another kill. The score was locked one last time at 12 before a 3-0 closing run sealed the victory for the Philippines.

Paat carried the scoring load for the Philippines especially in Set 1, leading the charge through aces, blocks, and attacks. She unloaded four straight points from the service zone that gave an early 9-5 advantage, then her barrage of kill blocks stopped Vietnam's comeback efforts midway through the period. Molina connected on a couple of spikes in the crucial juncture before Paat finished off what she started and won the set for her team.

The Filipina spikers raced to a 5-1 start in Set 2 but their error-prone ways allowed Vietnam to rally back and force a tight battle. An off-the-block kill from Jovelyn Gonzaga gave them their last taste of the lead, 19-18, before a couple of attack errors down the stretch helped Vietnam close the deal.

Vietnam jumped the gun in Set 3. Mau and Baron anchored the Philippines' huge run that turned a 3-7 deficit into a 13-11 lead. Paat and Molina also chipped in late to give the Philippines a four-point cushion. The Vietnamese inched within two, 23-21, before a quick hit from Maddie Madayag and an attack error from the opposing side finished it off.

The Philippines crumbled in Set 4 as Vietnam rolled to a lopsided 25-15 win to send the match to a deciding set.

The second leg of the inaugural tournament will be held in Sta. Rosa, Laguna on October 4 to 6.