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Thailand claim home victory over winless Puerto Rico

Thailand’s Nootsara Tomkom and Thatdao Nuekjang try to block an attack from Puerto Rico’s Karina Ocasio.

Bangkok, Thailand, August 16, 2013 – Thailand stays in the running for the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix Finals, by powering past Puerto Rico with a magnificent come-from-behind 3-1 (18-25, 25-7, 25-22, 25-11) victory at the Hua Mark Indoor Stadium on Friday.

Thailand – No.12  in the FIVB world rankings and fourth place winner in last year’s edition of the World Grand Prix – fielded an impressive line-up which included powerful attacker Onuma Sittirak, captain  Wilavan Apinyapong and home crowd favouite Pleumjit Thinkaow. Apinyapong, captain of the Thai team, led the host team with 23 points including 21 attacks from 35 attempts, while Puerto Rico’s Karina Ocasio scored a match-high of 16 points for her side.

The Puerto Ricans, who have yet to win a World Grand Prix match this season, have no chance of making the Finals.

In the first set, Puerto Rico got off to a convincing start as the 192cm-tall Ocasio used her height advantage to attack aggressively at the net to help the world No.18 take an initial 13-7 lead. As the attacks continued, it was clear that the Puerto Rico – who have yet to win a match in their year’s Grand Prix – stunned their hosts with their performance. The Puerto Rico side eventually secured a 25-18, winning the first set.

However, the host team pulled themselves together and fought back valiantly during the second set.  Helped by the offensive combination of Apinyapong’s devastating cross-court spikes and Sittirak’s powerful jump serves, Thailand took a comfortable second set with a score of 25-7.

With one set each, Thailand maintained their poise to continue their form. Thailand’s Malika Kanthong, Wilavan and Onuma took turns penetrating the visitors’ fragile defence with their spectacular attacks to help Thailand take a narrow lead with a score of 21-19. The Puerto Ricans gradually worked their way back to close the gap and tied the score at 22-22. However, Thailand was not to be outdone and won the remaining three points and the third set, 25-22.

Thailand were still in superb defensive and offensive form fourth set. And although Puerto Rico tried to tighten their defence, their attempts did not work out well and the hosts continued their onslaughts to win the set 25-11, and the match.

With this seventh loss of the season, Puerto Rico have recorded their worst ever start of the World Grand Prix campaign. If they fail to win a match this weekend, they will close their World Grand Prix campaign without a win for the first time in their history.

Friday’s victory has stretched Thailand’s win-loss record in the World Grand Prix against Puerto Rico to 5-1. Last year, Thailand beat Puerto Rico twice in the World Grand Prix with a straight-set win in Pool A in Macao and a 3-1 victory in Pool F in Komaki, Japan.

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