USA and Poland still within reach of Final Round
Thailand, July 8, 2005 - Fast-improving Poland gained
sweet revenge over a spirited Japan, as Thailand fought
back gallantly against the US before going down in a
hard-fought four-set thriller in the World Grand Prix
preliminaries Group I on Friday.
A large crowd of over 4,000 spectators jam packedThe
Mall Bangkapi's MCC Hall to watch the mighty clash of
the four participating teams which comprise Japan, USA,
Poland and the host girls. Hundreds of local fans left
the competing arena with their heads low in great
disappointment after learning that no more tickets were
available. Over 2,000 Japanese fans had already booked
the tickets through on-line booking, leaving not a lot
of room for the home fans.
In the opening match between Thailand and the US, the
host side's starters remained unchanged, with captain
Patcharee Sangmuang, Pleumjit Thinkaow and Amporn Hyapha
fronting the fierce attacks from the indomitable giants.
Unlike Thailand, Chinese-born Lang Ping, head coach of
the US team, reshuffled several players in her squad
including the 2m-tall Tayyiba Haneef, giving her new
talent more chances to obtain competition experience.
Thailand, comfortably losing the first two sets 25-14
and 25-20 to the much taller Americans, got their act
together in the more thrilling third set. Their greater
determination bore fruit shortly after that when they
captured the hard-fought set 25-15, the very first set
they have won since the World Grand Prix kicked off on
Their confidence boosted after the set win, Thailand
tried their best in the fourth set, with Pleumjit
unleashing a series of powerful spikes and terrific jump
serves and Amporn carrying out many scintillating
blocks. As Thailand narrowed the gap to 22-20, the
visitors poured everything they had in to the set.
Devastating left-hander Nancy Metcalf, who has emerged
as the tournament's best scorer with 134 points,
punctured the Thai defence with her exceptional
cross-court spikes to help her team claim the
hotly-contested set 25-22 and the match.
For the US, it was a repeat victory from last month's
first leg in Ningbo, China. However, despite the loss,
the Thai girls were still happy with their improved
"They improved a lot. Their players - Pleumjit Thinkaow,
Amporn Hyapha and Wilavan Apinyapong - performed
superbly to foil our blocking and spiking attempts,"
Ping said. "I think they are one of the strong teams to
be reckoned with in the World Grand Prix and the near
future. My girls also played well despite the fact that
they showed inconsistency in the third and fourth sets.
They still have some things to work on when they play
Japan in the next match."
It was a different story in the more thrilling encounter
between Japan and Poland. In-form Japan, which beat
Poland in straight sets in Tokyo in the first leg,
failed to repeat the result and moreover, let their
rivals gain revenge over them.
The fist-pumping Polish girls on Friday showed their
incredible jumping ability to overcome Japan's fast
spikes and impressive teamwork.
Winning the first set 25-22, Poland continued their
unbeaten streak in the following two sets, with the
powerful Katarzyna Skowronska and Milena Rosner beating
the small blockers regularly. Though cheered on lustily
by more than 2,000 fans, Japan found Poland too strong
tactically and technically. They had no answer to the
Polish spiking and blocking tactics to go down 25-23 and
"Poland came out much stronger this time," Japanese head
coach Shoichi Yanagimoto said. "They are fast-attacking.
We found no rhythm in counter-attacking. We could not
overcome their solid blocks. They read our game well.
Against the US in the next match, it's difficult to
predict the result. However, I know that my girls will
fight all-out although we have the height disadvantage."