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2006 edition
Poland beat USA but Final Round chance ends

Bangkok, 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, especially their
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 excellent
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 winners Cuba.

"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 individual
awards which comprised Wilavan Apinyapong (Best Receiver), Nootsara Tomkom (Best Setter), Wanna Burkaew (Best Digger) and Pluemjit Thinkaow (Best Server).