Taicang, China, September, 24, 2010 – Asian champions Thailand stormed into the finals of the second Asian Women’s Cup Volleyball Championship on Friday after beating Korea in a five-set thriller 3-2 (27-25, 22-25, 25-18, 20-25, 15-11) to set up a showdown with defending champion China who beat Japan in straight sets in the second semifinal (25-22, 25-21, 25-20).
Thailand, world No.12 and bronze medallist at the first Asian Cup, fielded a strong line-up including powerful spikers Onuma Sittirak, Pluemjit Thinkaow, Malika Kanthong and Wilavan Apinyapong who play their club Volleyball in Europe, while Korea, world No.21 were strengthened by three towers – Kim Yeon Koung, Kim Se Young and Yang Hyo Jin - all of them standing 190cm tall.
The first set was very competitive from the beginning when both sides took turns leading. Kim Yeon Koung became a smashing machine for Korea, helping Korea to lead at 23-19. But Thailand rallied back with tight defence and counterattacks with two fast attacks and a ace from Kaensing Utaiwan to level at 24-24. Korea took over the lead at 25-24 before losing the set 27-25.
The Thais continued their onslaught in the second set, leading all the way from 16-13 to 21-18 but Thailand could not stop Koung’s relentless attacking. Korea claimed the second set 25-22.
After losing the third set 18-25, the fourth set was dominated by Korea thanks to spiking and serving mistakes from Thailand. Korea, who finished as runner’s-up at the inaugural Women’s Cup clinched the set 25-20, forcing the match into a tiebreaker.
The decider became more exciting as the lead changed hands several times. After a few spikes, Thailand took a two-point at 11-9. Onuma, who scored 27 points, led Thailand to victory with some devastating offensive play. Her last powerful spike sealed the set and the match.
Defending champions China, ranked No.3 in the world, were inspired by the deafening cheers of more than 3,000 Chinese fans inside the Taicang Gymnasium in their win over Japan.
Among China’s eye-catching players were 190cm-tall powerful hitter Wang Yimei and devastating southpaw middle blockers Ma Yunwen and Xu Ming.
While China was star-studded, Japan fielded a young lineup, in which no players had participated in any major international tournaments and with an average of height of 176cm compared with China’s 185cm.
Both teams were into the game quickly and a smash by Li Juan. China came into the first TTO with a 8-4 lead. Wang Yimei popped up on the left after the Technical Time Out to give China a three point lead at 19-16. Japan clawed two points back but only saw China scored four out of six points to lead at 24-21. As Wang Yimei picked off a set point with a high-flying spike, China sealed the first set.
The second set was even more fiercely contested as the two teams remain tied from 3-3 to 18-18. China then boosted their blocking and the 1.97cm middle blocker Xu Ming moved her team two points ahead, from where China never looked back in the second set thanks to Japan’s error in receiving.
Winning the first two sets, China maintained their poise in the third set to foil Japan’s determined attempts to recover the lead and established an early lead of 6-2. However, Japan fought back to tie the scores at 11-11 before China stormed to a 4-1 run to lead the match again at 16-12. Then the Japanese solid defense fell to pieces and allowed China to launch another 4-0 run to take an unreachable 21-14 lead. China took the set after Japanese Mai Fukuda made a serving error.
“The Japanese team is a young team. We tried to break China’s defense with speedy attacks,” Japan coach Abo Kiyoshi said. “But obviously this did not work. China’s two wingers played very well today. These two players defeated us.”
China coach Yu Jueming said: “I am satisfied with my players’ performance. They kept cool when both teams fought fiercely and tried to kept their playing rhythm on the court. I made some changes on the starting line-up and it seemed this is a good decision. We could make more movement over the net.”
In the classification 5th-8th round earlier, Chinese Taipei beat Iran 3-0 (25-14, 27-25, 25-15) while Kazakhstan beat Vietnam 3-0 (25-21, 25-14, 25-14). .
Classification for 5th to 8th:
Iran vs. Chinese Taipei 0-3 (14-25, 25-27, 15-25)
Vietnam vs. Kazakhstan 0-3 (21-25, 14-25, 25-14)
1st to 4th
Thailand vs. Korea 3-2 (27-25, 22-25, 25-18, 20-25, 15-11)
China vs. Japan 3-0 (25-22, 25-21, 25-20)
Schedule for the final day competition
7th to 8th: iran vs. Vietnam
5th to 6th: Chinese Taipei vs. Kazakhstan
Bronze medal match: Japan vs. Korea
Gold medal match: China vs. Thailand