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Thailand cruise past Croatians

Thailand's players celebrate their comfortable victory over Croatia as they improved to a 2-1 record in Pool C

Matsumoto, Japan, October 31, 2010 – Thailand picked up their second win of the FIVB 2010 Women's Volleyball World Championship with a clinical 3-0 (25-15, 25-14, 25-17) victory over Pool C rivals Croatia at Matsumoto City Gymnasium on Sunday.

The Thais, led by 16-point Onuma Sittirak and Malika Kanthong with 13, moved into second place behind the USA after inflicting a second pool defeat on Croatia. Amporn Hyapha added 9 points for Kiattipong Radchatagriengkai's team, and Pleumjit Thinkaow and Wilavan Apinyapong 8 each, while Senna Ušic top-scored for the Croatians with 9.

Where Thailand jumped out of the starting blocks, Croatia's game failed to materialise for most of the first set. Coach Miroslav Aksentijevic had to call a timeout at 1-5 and another after Thailand's Amporn served an ace to put her side 11-3 ahead. That second talk stirred the Croatians and they clawed their way back to 13-8, when Kiattipong Radchatagriengkai decided to bring his own players off the court.

Thailand's form quickly returned, and when Croatia did get the ball over the net they were confronted with spectacular defending. The Thais soon secured the set on two Croatian mistakes: a receiving error by Ušic from a Pleumjit serve, and a netted serve by Croatia captain Maja Poljak.

Although Aksentijevic's team settled at the start of the second set, they still had a job to handle Thailand's traditional nimble game. Setter Nootsara Tomkom gave her usual classy performance, Onuma was pumping down big hits as always, and the Thai defence was stunning at times.

Onuma was also impressing in defence, making a brilliant block on big Croatian hitter Sanja Popovic that earned her side a seven-point lead at 14-7. Onuma's excellent day continued with several big serves that Croatia could not handle, while Malika made an impact at the end of the set with two good spikes and a lucky serve that crawled over the net to put Thailand 23-13 up. When a netted Ivana Miloš spike handed Thailand set point, Pleumjit finished it off with a neat tipover from a short set by Nootsara.

With Croatia's coordination troubles persisting into the third set, the Thais kept up the pressure. First Pleumjit conjured a towering block on Ušic, then good work by Malika meant Thailand were 8-5 in front at the First Technical Timeout (FTT). Their opponents were hardly helping their cause, however: for any good play that kept them in the game, there was bad stuff to hold them back. So when the Croatians finally closed to within two points at 14-12, Pleumjit produced a trademark spike from a short quick Nootsara set and Popovic then sent a spike wide, giving Thailand a four-point lead at the Second Technical Timeout (STT).

After Pleumjit and Nootsara repeated the trick to make the score 17-12, Aksentijevic called a timeout to try to calm his players. On the next point, though, they faked it and Wilavan came from behind to deliver a blistering shot into the Croatian court.

Jelena Alajbeg sought to bring Croatia back into contention with good spiking, yet she undid that with a long serve that gave Thailand a five-point advantage at 22-17. Wilavan made a scintillating dig to set up a spike for Malika that brought up match point, before the Thai captain herself dealt the final blow of the game.

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