Foton Pilipinas got trapped in an early rut and could not recover, bowing out to Iranian club Sarmayeh Bank 18-25, 21-25, 25-12, 22-25 in the AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship classification stage at the Alonte Sports Arena in Biñan, Laguna.
Struggling to pass Sarmayeh Bank’s serves, Foton struggled out of the gate. The Iranians forged a 16-10 lead heading into the second technical timeout of the first set before Foton made a run. American import Lindsay Stalzer ticked off two straight hits to bring Pilipinas to within four, 18-22, but Sarmayeh Bank pulled away, claiming the last three points of the set.
Foton made their first lineup adjustment in the second set, reassigning Stalzer to the opposite hitter position and subbing in Cherry Rondina for Jovelyn Gonzaga in the second open hitter slot. Maika Ortiz and Ej Laure were brought in later in the set, making for a hotly-contested frame. Foton managed to keep within a point of Sarmayeh Bank for majority of the set until their offense went cold, allowing the Iranians to bring a 21-22 lead to a 21-25 set win.
Ej Laure and Jaja Santiago starred in Foton’s third set retaliation, combining for 15 points and burying the Iranians in a double-digit gap. The fourth set was another back-and-forth battle which had neither leading by as more than two until the late stages. Pilipinas fought or an 18-16 lead through steady defensive plays and smashes from Stalzer. Following a timeout, Sarmayeh Bank unloaded a game-breaking 6-0 run. Landing match point at 24-20, the Iranians nearly let Foton back into the match thanks to silly mistakes with ball control. A Maika Ortiz net touch saved Sarmayeh Bank.
Stalzer led all scorers with 18 points, Laure finished with 12, while Jaja Santiago added 11 markers.
“When you dominate a team like we did in the third set, you’re not supposed to lose the match. This just shows that our team can’t handle yet this type of international pressure,” said Foton head coach Fabio Menta. “But as a club, we faced the Iran National Team, basically. And we were able to keep pace with a Top 40 team in the world so that’s always good.”
Sarmayeh Bank’s Farnoosh Sheikhi toppled Foton’s blockers with devastating running hits and garnered 17 points. Mahsa Kadkhoda added 16 markers while Esfahani Barhani tallied 10 points.
Foton will now play Chinese Taipei’s T. Grand Bank in the battle for seventh tomorrow. Sarmayeh Bank plays for a fifth place finish against Thongtin LVP Bank of Vietnam also tomorrow.
Sarmayeh Bank (3) – Sheikhi 17, Kadkhoda M. 16, Borhani 10, Giveh 7, Safari 4, Bagherpour 3, Saberi 3, Alikhani 2, Chamlanian 0, Kiana (L)
Foton (1) – Stalzer 18, Laure 12, Ortiz 7, Usher 4, Araneta 1, Dimaculangan, 1, Gonzaga 1, Maraño 1, Rondina 1, Perez 0, Reyes (L)