2005 FIVB WORLD GRAND PRIX

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USA and Poland still within reach of Final Round


Bangkok, 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 June 24.

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 form.

"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 25-22.

"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."