Iranian head coach Behrouz Ataei was again reminded of the massive rebuild project on his hands, after watching his young team fall to a straight-set defeat against Bulgaria on its return to Volleyball Nations League action.
Backed by the home crowd at Sofia’s Armeets Arena, Bulgaria started right on the front foot, easing to a 25-19 victory in the first set.
Perhaps Iranian players’ immaturity was most evident in the latter stages of the final two sets, when the team surrendered three-point leads on both occasions, as the host came out victorious 25-23, 26-24 for a first win in five outings.
“We delivered a decent performance except for the first set. Bulgarians had nothing to lose after four defeats and put in all their energy in front of their supporters,” Ataei said after the match.
“The lack of experience cost us again in the second and third sets. Overall, it was not a bad display compared to our previous matches, but we’re still paying the price for our naivety,” added the Iranian.
Iranian defense struggled all night against teenage outside hitter Aleksandar Nikolov, who chipped in a match-high 20 points, with Martin Atanasov also making a significant contribution to his team’s triumph with 14 points – including four aces.
Opposite spiker Amin Esmaeilnejad topped the scoring in the Iranian outfit with 17 points, followed by Morteza Sharifi, who had 11.
The result leaves Iran on two wins in five matches.
Four-set victories over China and Australia were coupled with straight-set setbacks against the Netherlands and Japan in the first week of the competition in Brazil.
Next for Iran is a double-header – starting tonight – against two heavyweights in USA, which made a clean sweep of four victories in Week 1, and Brazil.
Iran will conclude the visit to Sofia with an encounter against Canada, which rallied past Australia in a four-setter, on Saturday.