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Thailand up for World Grand Prix challenge - Sutichai

June 14, 2005 – Despite the odds being heavily against them, the Thailand women’s Volleyball team is still aiming high against the world's best women’s teams in the 2005 World Grand Prix, which starts on June 24.

This year’s edition of the premier women’s international Volleyball event marks Thailand’s fourth successive entry and with a record of 10th, ninth and eighth in the previous three years, they’re hoping for better things to come later this month.

The Thai team, ranked 17th in the world, returned from Vietnam early this month after finishe
d a disappointing fifth at the Asian Women's Club Championship.

Shortly after their return to Bangkok, the team members started their intensive training in
preparation for the much vaunted World Grand Prix. Six key players - Patcharee Sangmuang, Nurak Nokputta, Pluemjit Thinkaow, Narumon Khan-An, Wanna Burkaew and Nootsara Tomkom, did not compete in the Asian Women's Club Championship but joined the team this time, making it one of the strongest Thai line ups ever.

Thai head coach Sutichai Chanbunchee said that his team obtained valuable experience playing against such strong teams as Korea, Taiwan and China in the Asian Club Championship. "However, we did not field our full team and that's why we could not do that much there. A fifth place, I think, is a let-down. However, we don't have many choices in life sometimes. We learnt a lot in Vietnam and I think that my team needs further improvement to be a contender in the World Grand Prix," Sutichai said. "In the upcoming World Grand Prix, several tall players such as Patcharee, who stands 181cm tall, and a 180cm Pluemjit will join my team and certainly, their presence will help strengthen the team. This, I think, will make our match against our rivals more competitive although we remain underdogs," he added.

"My girls still have a problem with poor receiving. However, I hope that a newly-formed Thai team will come out with tremendously-improved form in the WGP. For me, the World Grand Prix is a very challenging assignment. This is my first time coaching the national women's team. Although it's an uphill task to beat much stronger teams such as China, USA, Poland and Japan, I think a chance to win even a single set from them is something to be proud of.

"Certainly, we are setting our eyes on winning but whether Thailand can accomplish such difficult target depends upon my girls. It's better to set our target one round at a time. In fact, I dare not say what position my team will finish this year.

"In our debut attempt in 2002, Thailand was inexperienced and that was why they finished at the bottom among eight participating teams. A year later, we improved our fortunes by sharing the ninth position with Japan. A total of 12 teams competed that year. It was not bad. I think it was a better job than the previous year since our position was better than Cuba and Canada, who finished in 11th.

"Last year, we beat Korea to finish 10th, while Korea and Dominican Republic were placed in 11th and 12th positions respectively. This year, there have strong teams competing in the World Grand Prix and for us, to beat each team is a difficult job. However, anything can happen. Who knows, underdogs can beat the best teams.”