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Philippines falls to Vietnam in five sets in SEAG debut

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The Philippine women's volleyball team faltered in its opening game in the 30th Southeast Asian Games as Vietnam took a five-set victory, 21-25, 25-23, 25-19, 20-25,15-8, Tuesday at the Philsports Arena in Pasig.

Alyssa Valdez led the Philippines with 22 points built on 20 spikes and two aces, followed by 12 points apiece from Ces Molina and Jovelyn Gonzaga. The duo of Majoy Baron of Maddie Madayag had three blocks each.

"I think we had a good performance but we just fell short," said national team head coach Shaq Delos Santos in Filipino. "It wasn't an ideal result but it's a lesson learned for us. We need to prepare for our next game."

The Vietnamese squad showed poise in the fifth and deciding set, leaning on their defense to get the win. Valdez's attacks were met with the towering blockers of Vietnam as the visiting team pushed their advantage to five, 12-7. The Philippines would score only one more time courtesy of Molina as Vietnam pulled away.

"This was an important game," Vietnamese head coach Tuan Kiet Nguyen. "We have a lot of young players. The Philippine audience was very, very loud and the young players were pressured coming into the stadium."

The Philippines took full advantage of the raucous crowd inside the arena as they took the first set on the heels of Valdez's scoring and Baron's defense.

Vietnam was able to take the next two sets, but the Philippines recovered in the fourth, capitalizing on their opponent's errors. A score from Valdez made it 23-19 in favor of the home team and errors from Vietnam were able to help the Philippines force a fifth set.

Thi Thanh Thuy Tran spearheaded Vietnam with an all-around performance of 27 points, including 26 spikes, alongside 13 receptions and 13 digs.

The Philippines needs to bounce back in its next match versus Thailand, who won over Indonesia in straights earlier, to keep its gold medal aspirations alive. Another loss from the Philippines in the four-country tournament would put them into a bronze medal match. However, coach Delos Santos doesn't want his team to get his team ahead of itself and think about earning a place in the podium.

"The best thing that we can do is to just focus on the next game against Thailand," Delos Santos said. "We'll think about the results later on. Once we work things one at a time, then I think we'll produce good results."