Suphan Buri, Thailand, September 7, 2003 – Fired-up South Korea, demonstrating strong teamwork
and well-structured and tactical offense, toppled tall and towering Russia
in an heart-pounding hard-fought five-set match as defending three-time world
champions Brazil marched on in the Women’s Under-20
World Championship on Sunday.
In what could be the big match of the championship, both South Korea and
Russia got solid performances from their established starters, but the
former took the advantage initially thanks to a strong back-court game.
As the Koreans fronted the fierce attack in the first set where they led
from the beginning 3-1, hard-smashing Kim Min-Ji leaped to spike at the net,
but accidentally fell down on the floor and had her right knee sprained. She
was carried out of the court and later rushed to hospital.
The mighty attack from both sides continued. The Koreans replaced the
injured Kim with Oh Hyun-Mi and she could prove a major force for the team
to be reckoned with. South Korea, which finished second at the previous
World Championship in Dominican Republic two years ago, exhibited their
power-and-speed tactics. Nevertheless, Russia bounced back, unleashing sharp
spikes to wrap up the hard-fought first set 25-23.
Han Song-Yi and Hong Mi-Hee were the principals in the Koreans’ comeback in
the following sets, with Han hitting devastating cross-court spikes and Hong
smartly producing several deceptive drops. South Korea took the second and
third set 25-14 and 25-21.
Russia, however, showed that they were not going to be the easy-beats in
four sets. The 202cm-tall Ioulia Merkoulova, the tournament’s tallest
player, came from behind to attack fiercely at the post, while powerful
Ekaterina Margatskaya carried out several terrific jump serves. Russia
captured the fourth set without much effort 25-13.
In the decider, both teams gave all-out, hoping to win the crucial set and
the match. As trailing narrowly 3-4, the Koreans, cheered on lustily by the
shouting supporters in the stands, held their nerves. They counter-attacked
bravely to catch the taller Russians at 9-9 before moving ahead 10-9 and
eventually won the action-packed set 16-14 and the thrilling match.
With the stunning victory over Russia, the Koreans are now tipped to top
Group B. However, an uphill task still awaits them as they next take on
formidable Belarus in their last match of the group round-robin
preliminaries, with Russia going up against Puerto Rico.
The other encounters at the same venue on Sunday saw hosts Thailand suffer
the straight-set demolition at the hands of The Netherlands, going down
11-25 24-26 13-25, while African champions Algeria came within a whisker of
suffering the early exit from the championship after losing two matches in a
The Algerians on Sunday lost a thrilling tussle to Venezuela 22-25 25-19
20-25 21-25. Their last chance on Monday will be a tough match against
unbeaten The Netherlands.
At the Chaopha Hall, South American champions Brazil and Asian champs China
still remain unbeaten . Brazil stunned European champions
Poland on Sunday in straight sets 25-22 25-20 25-21, while China had little problems
trouncing Chinese Taipei 25-18 25-16 25-20.
Brazil next take on Turkey, which on Sunday beat Cuba 3-1 (25-13
23-25 25-12 25-22), while China meet Germany and Cuba play Poland. The
German girls on Sunday powered past Ukraine 3-2 (25-20 22-25 21-25 25-14