Tokyo, Japan, November 11, 2009 – The Dominican Republic had to fight hard to recover from a disastrous first set and overcome a feisty performance from Thailand before claiming their first ever World Grand Champions Cup victory with a 14-25, 25-20, 25-21, 28-26 win on the second day of the FIVB 2009 Women’s World Grand Champions Cup on Wednesday.
Prisilla Rivera led the scoring for the Dominicans with 19 points and she was supported well by Milagros Cabral de la Cruz with 16 points. The Thais were led by a strong performance from Onuma Sittirak with 19 points, including four service points.
With both teams making their debuts in this edition of the FIVB World Grand Champions Cup, Thailand dominated the opening phase of the game at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium as the Dominicans were clearly out of sorts, particularly on receiving, but also on setting. The Thais meanwhile defended well and Sittirak got into a good early groove with her spiking and power serves. Dominican Republic coach Marcos Kwiek was forced to call a second timeout at 3-12 as his team were in danger of falling apart. Wilavan Apinyapong picked up three straight spiking points during a lengthy service spell by Sittirak that saw the Thais score nine straight points and build up a 16-6 lead. By this stage the Thais were in dominating form and Malika Kanthong and Apinyapong kept the pressure on the Dominicans as the set drew to its inevitable conclusion. Pleumjit Thinkaow brought up setpoint with a spike down the middle and Kanthong finished things off with a soft serve that fell into the middle of the Dominicans' court.
The Dominicans used their break to regroup and came back in a more positive frame of mind at the start of the second set, slipping into a 3-0 lead and maintaining that margin to the first technical timeout. Annerys Vargas and Lisvel Elisa Eve started to find some attacking form while the Dominicans' defense also improved. But at 6-12, the Thais started to come back into the game after a great spike by Amporn Hyapha. Sittirak picked up another service ace and scored with two brilliantly placed spikes as Thailand drew to within one point at 15-14. But then the Thais suffered some errors and the Dominicans pulled away again, stretching their lead to 21-14. This time there was no coming back and a pair of long serves – by otherwise classy setter Nootsara Tomkom and Sittirak – leveled the set count at 1-1.
Two great spikes by Kanthong helped Thailand to a narrow advantage at the first TTO of the third set, but it remained very tight through to the second TTO. Rivera hit a couple of decent hits as the Dominican Republic edged into a two-point lead and Altagracia Mambru helped to expand that lead to four points with a couple of good spikes and a block on Kanthong. A block by Cabral on Apinyapong brought up setpoint and the same player clinched the set with a confident spike.
Thailand had an early lead in the third set on the back of good spiking by Apinyapong, but the Dominicans came back through Cabral, who spiked her team into a one-point lead at 8-7. The Domincan Republic held onto that slim advantage until a pair of errors by Eve let Thailand take a one-point lead at the second TTO. Both sides committed errors as the tension grew and a mis-hit spike by Cabral saw Thailand lead 20-18 before the scores were level again at 21-21 after two good hits by Cabral. The same player put the Dominican Republic ahead before matchpoint was earned on a spike by Rivera. That was saved before the Thais earned setpoint, which was also saved. The Thais saved one more matchpoint before Rivera drove a spike through the Thai defense and Cabral did likewise to clinch the match.