By Rodolfo Dacleson II

PHOTO: SMM Volleyball

BANGKOK, Thailand – Mylene Paat and Dindin Santiago-Manabat did everything they could for Nakhon, but Diamond Food was just too strong for them.

Nakhon Ratchasima bid goodbye to their championship dream with Diamond Food sending them crashing to a 25-19, 26-24, 25-23 loss in the Volleyball Thailand League (VTL) semifinals Saturday (March 5) at the Nimibutr Stadium.

Paat had 14 points built on 11 kills and three blocks while Manabat unloaded 10 spikes, a block, and an ace in a losing effort for Korat.

Nakhon, last season's silver medalist, came red-hot with their scattered attacking to establish an 8-3 lead in the third set.

Unfortunately, they couldn't maintain the lead.

Outside hitter Sasipaporn Janthawisut fired five kills in the 8-2 scoring blitz used by Diamond to take an 11-10 lead, and from this point, the defending champion took control of the driver seat.

Manabat led the last stand of Nakhon in scoring back-to-back hits and an ace to trim the deficit to one when Diamond reached match point, 24-21, yet it was Janthawisut's down-the-line kill that ended the match.

Janthawisut finished with 18 points, all from attacks, while Cuban reinforcement Liannes Castañeda Simon added 16 markers off 14 hits and two blocks for Diamond.

Diamond went to erect a commanding 2-0 set lead not without a challenge coming from Nakhon that forced the second frame to 24-all after trailing 18-13.

Janthawisut responded with an attack followed by Manabat's outside hit–Nakhon challenged the call but was unsuccessful–sealing Diamond's second set victory.

Simon was unstoppable in the opening set by uncorking eight kills while Janthawisut and the rest also contributed on both ends to dominate until the final stretch.

The Cat Devils now aim to nurse their straight-set defeat in the bronze medal match versus the Supreme Chonburi and Khonkaen Star inside the same venue at 11:45 AM (MNL Time), Sunday. 

Edited by Jostle Pilayre