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In-form Thailand come from behind to stun Cuba

Thailand's home fans helped give the side an extra boost as they saw off Cuba on Saturday
Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, August 6, 2011 - Asian champions Thailand caused a major upset in the 2011 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix on Saturday seeing off three-time Olympic champions Cuba in five sets (23-25 17-25 28-26 25-23 15-10) in front of their home fans in Nakhon Pathom.

Thailand fielded the same well-established starting line-up which beat Peru in straight sets the previous day, while Cuba were spearheaded by the fiercely-attacking Yoana Palacios Mendoza.

2011 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix
August 5-28

In front of a large crowd of cheering spectators packing the 4,000-seater venue, the Thai girls started strongly, with Pleumjit Thinkaow hitting fast spikes and Wilavan Apinyapong overpowering the taller blockers with her exceptional spikes to help Thailand take a narrow 17-14. Cuba fought back to draw level and silenced the cheering home crowd as they sealed the opening set.

Conceding one set, the home side upped the tempo with hard-attacking from Onuma Sittirak taking them into an early lead before the visitors pulled back. From then on, they overwhelmed the Thai girls to comfortably take a 2-0 lead.

However the home crowd came into their own in the third as Thailand came to life to lead initially at 10-7. Cuba allowed mistakes to creep into their game as Thailand went further ahead before bringing on some experienced heads to close the gap to 24-all. But Thailand, determined to stay in the match, put their bodies on the line and it eventually paid off as they narrowly pulled a set back.

Both sides started the fourth evenly as Cuba looked to finish the game and Thailand looked to send it to a decider. Cuba opened with devastating spikes from Yoana Palacios Menhdoza and powerful jump serves by Kenia Carcaces before Thailand relied on their offensive combination from Wilavan's powerful attacking at the post and high blocking from Utaiwan Kaensing. At 11-11, Thailand advanced 14-12 before Cuba hit back to even 14-14. As Cuba remained strong in their offence, Thailand improved their tactics to foil the tough rivals' determined attacking attempts. At 22-22, Wilavan put Thailand in front 24-22 with her lightning-fast spikes. The hosts allowed Cuba one more point before winning the thrilling set 25-23.

The decider saw Thailand jump to a 3-0 lead before Cuba fought back gallantly to narrow the gap 4-7. However, their game was riddled with unforced mistakes, allowing the Thais to score crucial points to lead 12-5. With spectators cheering them with nerve-wracking noises, Thailand started to produce the goods to win the thrilling set 15-10.


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