By John Bryan Ulanday

THE Philippine women’s national volleyball team failed to sustain a strong start as it fell short against Indonesia in five thrilling sets, 21-25, 28-26, 25-12, 18-25, 9-15 in Day 1 of the inaugural ASEAN Grand Prix at the Terminal 21 Mall in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand.

Five players reached double digits in a scattered attack of the Indonesians who flaunted their experience after staring a 1-2 deficit led by Arsela Nuari Purnama’s 18 points on 16 attacks.

Ratri Wulandari (14), Megawati Hangestri Pertiwi (13), Wilda Sugandi (12) and Agustin Wulandari (11) keyed in solid support for Purnama as Indonesia completed a comeback for a 1-0 slate in this four-nation tournament that also serves as a buildup to the upcoming 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) this November.

Indonesia, the runner-up to champion Thailand in the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEAG, took the opening frame with a 25-21 win before the nationals retaliated with a 28-26 escape act in the second set.

Behind the timely hits of ace hitter Kalei Mau and veteran Ces Molina and the on-point blocking of Majoy Baron, the Phl WVT rode on momentum and stunned the Indonesians with a dominating 25-12 third set win to move on the verge of capping off a massive upset victory.

But that’s when the Indonesians rediscovered their fiery form, coming away with a convincing 25-18 and 15-9 win in the fourth and fifth set, respectively, to eclipse the nationals in the tight contest that lasted for two hours and five minutes.

Molina fired 18 markers on 16 kills, Baron chalked up 17 on five blocks while Mau added 15 in a foiled effort for the Philippines which played without top gunner Alyssa Valdez who is nursing an ankle injury.

The Phl WVT looks to get back on track at 3 p.m. (Manila time) today against 13-time SEAG champion Thailand before wrapping its schedule against Vietnam on Sunday.

The ongoing ASEAN GP is the first-ever in the region and will have its second leg in Sta. Rosa, Laguna on Oct. 4-6 that also serves as a test event for the volleyball competition of SEAG slated Nov. 30 – Dec. 11 here.