China one step closer to sealing Asian Junior Women’s title
Reigning champions China, the FIVB world No. 1 and the only team yet to lose a set to their rivals en route to Monday’s semi-finals, pulled off a dramatic 3-1 (25-17, 18-25, 25-21, 25-22) victory over Japan, the team they had beaten in straight sets in their Pool F playoffs earlier.
Against the Japanese, China fielded a fully-fledged line up including the towering Xu Ruayo and Zhu Ting, who stand 193cm and 192cm, respectively.
China, who finished third at the last year’s FIVB Women's U20 World Championship in Peru, opened up aggressively. Hard-hitting Zhu Ting used her height advantage to attack the smaller blockers with her lightning-fast mid-court spikes, helping her team win the first set 25-17.
Japan stormed back mightily. Momoka Oda and Aya Horie took turns puncturing the Chinese defence with their relentless deadly attacks to build Japan a commanding 18-15 lead in the second set.
As China set up an impeccable defence from Zhu Ting and Li Weiwei, the fired-up Japanese spiked devastatingly from all angles in a determined effort to pull down the Chinese wall. The ongoing battle thrilled the crowd with exceptional demonstrations of skill from both sides. Japan fared better, sealing the second-set win 25-18.
Terrific Zhu Ting and Tang Ningya put China back on the right track in the third set, thanks to their sharp spikes which always went unanswered. China took the initial 16-12 lead.
Japan regrouped to counter-attack well and narrowed the gap to 15-17. This forced China coach Xu Jiande to ask for time-out to improve his team’s tactics and techniques. His intervention worked, and China won the hard-fought set 25-21.
Japan took the upper hand initially in the fourth set to lead 12-8 before stretching it to 17-9. It looked as if the fight would end easily in favour of the Japanese. However, China gradually pulled their game together to get crucial points, narrowing the margin to 18-21 before catching the Japanese at 22-22.
From then on, it became a clash of the titans as both sides got up a full head of steam, pouring in everything they had. Japan performed a stubborn defence, preventing their rivals from penetrating, while China changed their tactics to rely mostly on effective drops and powerful spikes from the back court. China eventually captured the hotly-contested battle 25-22 and won the exhausting 104-minute match.
Zhu Ting of China scored a match-high 28 points, 24 of them from deadly spikes, while Aya Horie bagged 16 points for Japan.
“I’m very happy that my team beat Japan again. However, I praise them for the improved performance. They came back much stronger in the semifinals against us,” said China coach Xu Jiande. “Actually, we beat them before in Pool F playoffs and we remained confident after the first-set win. However, we did not prepare for the loss and they played much tougher against us in the second set. That’s why we lost in the set. We next take on Chinese Taipei in the final. We already beat them in the playoffs and hope to repeat that feat.”
Earlier, the first semifinal clash saw Chinese Taipei silence the cheering host crowds with a magnificent come-from-behind 3-1 (25-27, 25-10, 25-16, 25-18) victory over Thailand.
Lee Yu top scored for Chinese Taipei with 22 points, while Ajcharaporn Kongyot led Thailand with 16 points.
Chinese Taipei go up against China in the Tuesday’s final, while Thailand challenge Japan in the third-place playoff.
For Chinese Taipei, it was the second time in history making it to the final of the Asian Junior Women’s meet. Their only previous appearance was in 2008 on home soil, when they went down tamely to Japan in straight sets.
“I’m sorry that my team could not make it to the final round,” said Thailand coach Nataphon Srisamutnak. “We played below-standard. We now have nowhere to go but up for the third-place playoff against Japan. It’s not easy to beat them, but I hope my team will regain their top form.”
In the 5th-8th playoffs, Korea recovered from the loss of their first two sets (22-25, 20-25) against fast-improving Kazakhstan to take the remaining three sets 25-20, 25-19 and 15-6. India also made their mark, thrashing Iran in comfortable straight sets (25-18, 25-8, 25-15).
On Tuesday, Korea face India in the 5th-6th place playoff while Kazakhstan and Iran battle it out for the seventh position.
In the playoffs at the Ratchaburi Gymnasium, Australia finished ninth in the championship after outclassing Vietnam 3-0 (25-22, 25-16, 25-12). Hong Kong beat New Zealand 3-0 (25-14, 25-18, 25-20) to claim the 11th spot.
The 13th place went to Sri Lanka following their hard-fought 3-1 (25-20, 25-19, 16-25, 26-24) win over Mongolia, while Turkmenistan took the 15th position after crushing young, inexperienced Kuwait 3-0 (25-10, 25-3, 25-11).
In Nakhon Pathom
Semi-finals: Chinese Taipei v Thailand 3-1 (25-27, 25-10, 25-16, 25-18); China v Japan 3-1 (25-17, 18-25, 25-21, 25-22)
5th-8th playoffs: Korea v Kazakhstan 3-2 (22-25, 20-25, 25-20, 25-19, 15-6); India v Iran 3-0 (25-18, 25-8, 25-15)
15th-16th place: Turkmenistan v Kuwait 3-0 (25-10, 25-3, 25-11)
13th-14th place: Sri Lanka v Mongolia 3-1 (25-20, 25-19, 16-25, 26-24)
11th-12th place: Hong Kong v New Zealand 3-0 (25-14, 25-18, 25-20)
9th-10th place: Australia v Vietnam 3-0 (25-22, 25-16, 25-12)
In Nakhon Pathom
12pm: Third-place playoff: Thailand v Japan
3pm: Championship match: China v Chinese Taipei
Awarding and Closing Ceremony
11am: 7th-8th place: Kazakhstan v Iran
1pm: 5th-6th place: Korea v India