Fukuoka, Japan, November 14, 2009 – In a showdown between the two winless teams at the FIVB Women’s World Grand Champions Cup 2009, South Korea edged Thailand 25-18, 25-19, 16-25, 14-25, 15-11 at Marine Messe in Fukuoka on Saturday.
Kim Yeon Koung was South Korea's top scorer with 26 points, followed by Hwang Young Joo with 15. Malika Kanthong top-scored for Thailand with 25 points.
South Korea looked a bit sleepy at the start of the match, while the Thais were their usual ebullient selves. However, three decent spikes by Yeon-Koung Kim helped wake the Koreans up and they pulled back from 1-4 to 5-5. For the mid-section of the set, it was neck-and-neck, with both sides making a pair of service errors, but ominously Yeon-Koung kept scoring. The deadlock was broken at 14-14 when Thai ace server Onuma Sittirak planted her first serve into the net. Kim added a spike for a two-point advantage at the second technical timeout and a service ace by Korean captain Sa-Nee Kim – with the Thai defense in disarray – stretched that lead to three points. Yeon-Koung then thundered down two spikes – the second after a fantastic dig by Sa-Nee – and the Koreans were five points ahead. A big hit by Yeon-Koung brought setpoint and the same player ended the set with a well-placed push shot, her 10th point of the set.
The Koreans had a slight edge at the start of the second set and the Thais weren't helped by service errors by their two best servers – Sittirak and captain Wilavan Apinyapong – in the first period. They committed two more in the second period. Yeon-Koung also contributed two great blocks on Sittirak and Kanthong as Korea moved into a three-point lead at the second TTO. A lovely quick tipover by Nootsara Tomkom sparked a mini-revival as the Thais pulled to within a point at 16-15, but the Koreans quickly put space between the two sides again, and the Thais were once again playing catchup. The Koreans ended the set with three identical points: Se-Young Kim spiking down the center off a short toss by Sa-Nee.
Thailand seemed to have a bit of their rhythm back at the beginning of the third set and breezed into a 6-2 lead. Now the Koreans were unsure of themselves and a serve by Utaiwan Kaensing went through untouched to bring the Thais an 8-3 lead at the first TTO. Pleumjit Thinkaow then managed a rare Thai block (on Hwang Youn Joo) and Apinyapong delivered four points as the Thais went 10 points ahead, a margin they kept at the second TTO. The introduction of 16-year-old Jeong-Ah Park brought a little respite for the Koreans as she hit a nice spike and picked up two service points, but normal service was resumed for the Thais as Apinyapong thundered another spike through the Korean defense. Setpoint came with a wide shot by Hwang and another error by Yeon-Koung brought the Thais only their second set of the tournament.
The Thais led nearly all the way to the first TTO in the fourth set, but the Koreans were keeping things close. Kaensing and Em-orn Phanusit – rarely used until now – were giving Thailand a solid foundation and helping to counter the height of the Koreans. They were well-supported by Apinyapong and Kanthong, who got three good shots in as the Thais cruised into a 16-8 lead at the second TTO. Apinyapong made a fabulous block on Hwang and added a great spike before Kanthong served an ace to give the Thais a 10-point margin at 18-8. A block on Hwang brought setpoint and Thinkaow brought the two teams level at two sets each with an unreturnable spike.
The Koreans dug in for the tie-breaking set and moved into a three-point lead at the break. All the balls were going their way and they were soon five points ahead. Apinyapong stopped the rot with a spike, Thinkaow blocked Se-Young and then managed a decent spike to narrow the gap to 11-10. But shots by Hye-Suk Yoon and Yeon-Koung, and a block by Hyo-Jin Yang on Kanthong brought matchpoint. Yang then finished things off with a spike at the net.