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American fightback quells Thai resistance

The Americans outblocked Thailand 17-6 en route to a four-set victory in Matsumoto

Matsumoto, Japan, October 29, 2010 – World Grand Prix champions USA got off to a winning start at the FIVB Women's World Championship on Friday, but they had to fight hard before overcoming Thailand 3-1 (23-25, 25-17, 25-17, 25-21) at Matsumoto City Gymnasium.

Destinee Hooker was one of five Americans in double digits, leading the way with 28 points. Jordan Larson contributed 13 points, Logan Tom and Foluke Akinradewo each registered 12 and Heather Bown added 10 including six blocks. Onuma Sittirak top-scored for Thailand with 18 points while Pleumjit Thinkaow and Amporn Hyapha managed 11 and 10 respectively.

FIVB Women's World Championship Japan 2010 official page

The Americans took time to get up to speed – they dropped three points from service errors early on – but were able to go out in front for the first time at the First Technical Timeout (FTT) on a spike by Larson. Another Larson shot gave them a two-point lead at 12-10, but they could not shake the resilient, nimble Thais off. A couple of canon shots by the 193cm Hooker kept the pressure on, but the Thais – led superbly by setter Nootsara Tomkom – pulled even, then went ahead through a fabulous block by Pleumjit on Tom. Onuma then took control for the Thais with some thunderous shots as the set drew to a close. Amporn's spike through the American block brought up a set-point at 24-22 and although Akinradewo responded with a fine shot of her own, Onuma fired an absolute thunderbolt to clinch the set.

Despite more service errors at the beginning of the second set, USA had the early advantage, with Hooker and Akinradewo landing some good spikes. They were two points up at the FTT and Thailand coach Kiattipong Radchatagriengkai had to call a timeout after successive blocks put his team four points behind. Blistering shots by Malika Kanthong and Pleumjit, and a stupendous block by Nootsara on Tom gave the Thais hope, but the Grand Prix champions were starting to find their range and using their height advantage, and the Asian team were finding it hard to resist. A wide serve by Wilavan Apinyapong brought set-point and a first-time hit at the net by Alisha Glass levelled the set score at 1-1.

Thailand fell behind again at the start of the third set and Kiattipong had to call a timeout at 1-5. That steadied the ship for a while as Thailand pulled to within a point at 11-10. Onuma tried hard to keep her team in the game, but the Americans' big hitters – Hooker and Akinradewo – kept them ahead. The margin was still only two points at the Second Technical Timeout (STT) and the Thais were fighting hard, with Onuma at the centre of things. Yet they needed to cut down on their errors – particularly spiking errors – if they were to have a chance of matching the United States and that did not happen. After being only a point adrift at 15-14, Thailand managed only three points more in the set, the end coming when Onuma slammed one of her trademark power serves into the net.

The Thais played some disciplined Volleyball at the start of the fourth set and dug in hard defensively. Wilavan, Malika and Onuma all contributed and the team showed greater unity as they earned a one-point lead at the FTT. A sensational block by Wilavan on Akinradewo put Thailand three points clear at 11-8 and suddenly the Americans had a fight on their hands. Two good blocks on Onuma put the United States back in the game, however, and they went back in front at 16-15. There was no more than a point in it from 15-14 to 22-21, but then two blocks by Bown gave the USA matchpoint and another block by Larson on Onuma ended the Thais' brave resistance.

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