Iran turns up arena volume with second straight win

Iran may not rank high among the Filipinos’ favorite teams here in Volleyball Nations League Week 3 leg at Mall of Asia Arena.

But on Thursday, the Middle Eastern squad proved to local fans that it can put on a show.

The Iranians pulled through another thrilling five-setter and overcame Nimir Abdel-Aziz’s 37-point explosion to pull off a 25-22, 22-25, 25-21, 20-25, 15-10 win in front of a loud and appreciative crowd.

“It was great. The atmosphere, we’re really so excited to play in one of the best countries for volleyball, for the fans. It was a great experience for us,” said Iran skipper Milad Ebadipour, who helped apply the finishing touches on the win and finished with 13 points.

“I hope, all season, all year, they follow volleyball. Like this year, and especially next year it’s gonna be the World Championships, the most [important] tournament after the Olympic Games. I’m pretty sure that the [arena] will be full, full of fans and you know, it’s making us feel really good to play here.”

Amin Esmaeilnezhad and Poriya Hossein powered the Iranians for its second straight victory to improve to a 2-8 record, following their 26-28, 25-23, 25-18, 26-28, 15-13 win over Team USA less than 24 hours ago.

Esmaeilnezhad poured in 29 points off 25 kills, three blocks, and an ace, while Hossein drilled 27 points including three blocks to deny Netherlands of a comeback in the fifth set.

Nothing to lose

The Iranians quickly assembled a 10-5 spread after Hossein’s big block on Abdel-Aziz. The Dutch star, though, refused to give up and cut the deficit down to three, 13-10, but Esmaeilnezhad and Ebadipour eventually sealed the triumph.

Iran battles sixth-seed team France (6-3) at 11 a.m. on Friday. Ebadipour said they will continue to make the most of the experience and play with nothing to lose.

“We lost eight games, so, nothing bad can happen to our team anymore, so we gave everything, the best. But we look forward and our young generation, I think they are starting to play [well], they’re starting to push and change our mentality,” he said. “They are young but they are professional players and most of them, they play in the best leagues in the world in Italy, in Poland, in Russia. So, they have all this experience. We all help each other, the young guys, the experienced guys. It’s making a good team, and that’s the most important.”

The Netherlands remained in the 13th place with a 3-7 record despite another offensive masterpiece by Abdel-Aziz, who fired 27 attacks, nine aces, and a block. Maarten Van Garderen backstopped him with 17 points.

Abdel-Aziz, who scored 38 points two days ago, hopes to finally get a win in Manila against Japan on Friday at 7 p.m.

Earlier, Canada earned its second straight win in Manila after dominating Germany, 25-19, 25-18, 25-21, to bolster its Final Eight chances.

Buoyed by its five-set win over fan favorite Japan two days ago, Stephen Maar and Arthur Szwarc dropped 15 points each to lift Canada to fifth place with a 6-4 record.



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“I think we did a good job in serving and passing today. Our team had pretty flawless volleyball,” said Maar after nailing 14 kills. “Germany gave some good fight in the end and I think we handled it really well, so I’m happy for the team.”

In Maar’s second time in the Philippines, he’s glad that he is now in better shape to play in front of Filipino fans.





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