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2024 VNL Season

Milad, Poriya lead Iran to stunning victory against USA in VNL Manila


Iran snapped its eight-match skid in the 2024 FIVB Men’s Volleyball Nations League with a rousing 26-28, 25-23, 25-18, 26-28, 15-13 breakthrough win, upsetting the United States on Wednesday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

The Asian side improved to a 1-8 win-loss record, keeping their hopes alive of staying in the VNL for next year, while pushing their opponents into the danger of elimination from the Top 4 with a 3-6 record.

The Iranians had to fend off a huge fightback from the Americans, led by TJ De Falco, in the fifth and final set, ending the frame on a 6-3 run with Milad Ebadipour spearheading both offense and defense. Poriya Hossein Khanzadeh, another outside hitter, eventually secured the match-clinching win in two hours and 21 minutes.

“It’s been tough for us these past two weeks, and we had a tough matchup against the USA for our first game in the third week. I’m so proud of my teammates, especially since this is the young generation, and how they played in the fifth set. It is not easy to play a fifth set against the USA, but they delivered,” said Iranian skipper and outside hitter Milad.

Poriya scattered his 23 points on 22 attacks and one service ace in the closely contested battle against De Falco, while Milad contributed 20 markers with 16 spikes, three blocks, and one ace, taking charge for the multiple-time Asian champions.

The first set could have gone the Asian side’s way with Poriya, a 19-year-old upstart, showcasing his skills under new head coach Peyman Akbari’s system. However, the Americans found a response, with De Falco finally getting his attacks through for a 28-26 win.

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The second and third sets, however, displayed what Milad described as a great performance from the predominantly young Iranian squad. Anchored by the exceptional defense of libero Arman Salehi, playmaker Mohammad Taher Vadi easily found options aside from Milad and Poriya, even scoring in some stretches of the match to the surprise of the American defense.

The Americans made some changes to inject life into their game, with Jordan Ewert coming off the bench for Garrett Muagututia. Ewert ended with 10 markers, most of which came in the fourth and fifth sets to force the decider and set up the epic finish.

Iran will aim for a second straight win against the Netherlands (3-6) on Thursday at 3 p.m.

The upset also spoiled a massive 33-point explosion from De Falco, who had 30 attacks, two blocks, and one service ace. Matt Anderson was limited to 13 points, with 10 attacks and three aces.

The Americans will look to bounce back when they battle cross-continent rivals Brazil (6-3) later the same day at 7 p.m.

Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.


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