Poland beat USA but
Final Round chance ends
Thailand, July 10, 2005 - European champions Poland
stunned USA, while Japan powered past hosts Thailand in
a gutsy display of an all-Asian battle in the final
World Grand Prix preliminaries Group I contest at the
jampacked MCC Hall inside The Mall Bangkapi.
Poland, aiming for a straight-set win over the US to
raise their chance of qualifying for the Sendai finals
between July 13 and 18, performed superbly to win the
first two sets 25-18 and 25-17. However, USA upped their
poise and started to produce the goods in the third set
and their determination bore fruit later on when they
successfully captured the third set 25-22 before Poland
continued their superiority in the fourth set where they
won a hard-fought thriller 25-22 and the match.
Pic: Poland's Katarzna Skowronska attacks
However, Poland just learned shortly after the match
that their dreams of making the cut for the grand finals
were entiredly shattered after the Netherlands beat
Korea in straight sets. With a better point ratio, the
Netherlands emerged as the last qualifers to the finals.
Meanwhile, hosts Thailand exhibited a well-structure and
tactical offence, but still went down in a mighty clash
to Japan in four hard-fought sets.
Buoyed by parochial fans of both sides, Thailand and
Japan started aggressively from the very beginning of
the first set. They took turns spiking and blocking
spectacularly, using their Asian Volleyball styles of
scintillating come-from-behind spikes and terrific jump
serves. However, Thailand played more consistently to
win the hotly-contested opener 25-23.
After losing one set, Japan improved their tactics,
utilising fast spikes from Ai Otomo and Sachiko Sugiyama
to take the narrow 12-11 lead. The host side tried to
regain their composure, with Pluemjit Thinkaow producing
several jump serves and Piyamas Koijapo and Patcharee
Sangmuang tightening the Thai defence with good blocks.
As Thailand came within a whisker of closing the margin
22-23, the Japanese continued their sparkling form to
win the set 25-22.
Thailand initially suffered on poor serving and spiking
in the third set, while Japan dramatically stormed on
their powerful hits to comfortably clinch the set 25-17.
The visitors still rolled on their rhythm in the fourth
set, where Thailand, despite posing a strong challenge,
went down in the thriller 25-22 and the match.
Thai head coach Sutichai Chanbunchee said after the
match that he was satisfied with his girls'
tremendously-improved performance. However, he admitted
that Thailand still have many things to improve,
serving and setting.
"We played well but it's a pity that we could not beat
Japan despite the fact that we had the chance," he said.
"In the third set, we had several opportunities to
counter-attack, but our attempts were foiled by Japan's
teamwork. I think we still have the problem on receiving
the first ball. As far as I'm concerned, we have more to
improve, particularly on our receiving."
"At the same time, we have to attack faster. Our setter
also has to be much stronger. For the future strategy, I
have to discuss about all these things with my coaching
staff . As for our overall performance in this year's
World Grand Prix, I think it's quite okay. We trained
together for only a few weeks before taking on much
stronger rivals including world champions Italy, Athens
Olympics champions China and former three-time Olympic
"I think my girls have already learned how to improve
their game when they have to play much taller players.
However, I think we still have more to improve."
In their successive fourth attempts in the World Grand
Prix, Thailand, who finished 10th last year, managed to
finish bottom of the 12-team standing.
In the award presentation for the Bangkok leg contest on
Sunday, Poland landed the Champion's Trophy, while
Japan, USA and Thailand finished second, third and
fourth respectively. Thailand also claimed four
awards which comprised Wilavan Apinyapong (Best
Receiver), Nootsara Tomkom (Best Setter), Wanna Burkaew
(Best Digger) and Pluemjit Thinkaow (Best Server).