PRESS RELEASE 07.09.2003


2003 World Women’s Under-20 Volleyball Championship

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 row.

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 15-8).