On the penultimate day of the group round-robin preliminaries of the annual competition, Tianjin overcame Taipei in a hard-fought four-set thriller with a magnificent come-from-behind 3-1 (24-26, 25-19, 25-15, 25-18) victory in Pool B.
Also winning in the same pool on Sunday were Kazakhstan’s Zhetyssu, which outclassed PLDT of the Philippines in straight sets 3-0 (25-21, 25-13, 25-21). India’s KSEB tasted its first victory in the championship, following their convincing 3-0 (25-14, 25-18, 25-9) win over Singapore’s VAS. Hosts Nakhonratchasima went down in a closely-contested 3-2 (16-25 23-25 25-20 25-20 10-15) encounter in a grueling 122 minutes match against Thong Tin Lienvietpostbank of Vietnam.
The annual championship is being held from April 17 to 25 and serves as a qualifying tournament to decide the Asian club representative to compete in the FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championship, which will take place from May 7 and 11 in Zurich, Switzerland. Asia is the last continent after Europe and South America to complete their championship, with a wild card appointment completing the qualification process of six teams. Hosts Volero Zurich have automatically qualified and are joined by South American champions Sesi-SP, European winners Dinamo Kazan and wild card recipient Molico Osasco.
Tianjin survive a strong challenge from fighting Taipei
Four-time champions Tianjin fielded a formidable line-up, which included Yin Na, Wei Qiuyue, Zhang Xiaoting and Chen Liyi in their tough match against Taipei.
Both teams have recorded three wins against no loss heading into the Sunday’s match. Tianjin might have more individual talents in their team, while the smaller-built rivals fielded all national Chinese Taipei team players.
Wang Jiamin scored 16 points for Tianjin, while Chen Wang-Ting scored a match-high 24 points for Taipei. She led the spiking skill with 18 points and six ace serves.
After the match, Tianjin’s head coach Wang Baoquan admitted that he was not happy with the way his players performed.
“We played below our normal standard,” Baoquan said. “We played without a good teamwork and made too many mistakes. I’m not satisfied with our performance today. Our next match against KSEB serves as if it was our training match.
“Hisamitsu Springs are very strong. If we play this form in the final match against the Japanese, I admit that we will lose the match for sure. I have to keep my watchful eyes on my team’s performance in the remaining matches. If they can improve their form drastically, I’m still convinced that we can beat Hisamitsu Springs. However, if we play like we did in this match against Taipei, I’m sure the Japanese side will beat us and take away the eventual title.”
Zhetyssu pull off a straight-set win over PLDT
Zhetyssu started strong to seize the commanding 10-4 lead in the opening set, thanks to the deadly attack hits by the 195cm Alena Omelchenko. PLDT of the Philippines, strengthened by former Cuban superstar Bell Mackenzie Regla Maritza and the 197cm-tall Santiago Alyja Daphne, hit back bravely to catch the taller rivals 20-20. To give PLDT a short work, Zhetyssu allowed the opponents only one more point to wrap up the set 25-21.
After the first-set win, Zhetyssu became more confident in the second set. With Omelchenko and the 192cm Lyudmila Anarbayeva blocking scintillatingly, the Kazakhs seized the chance when PLDT gradually lost their touch and instead came up with poor reception. Zhetyssu attacked relentlessly to clinch the set with ease 25-13.
The third set became more exciting, when both sides went all out with the similar standard. After leveling 19-19, Zhetyssu continued their remarkable run to win the set 25-21.
Alena Omelchenko was the top scorer for Zhetyssu with 10 points, while Bell Mackenzie Regla claimed nine points for the Philippines.
India’s KSEB annihilate Singapore’s VAS to taste their first victory
KSEB and VAS have yet won a set in their first three matches. The clash among them on Sunday expected a close battle. However, things turned sour for the Singaporeans when they succumbed to humiliating straight-set loss 3-0 (25-14, 25-18, 25-9) at the hands of the much stronger KSEB.
Raju Tiji emerged as the top scorer of KSEB with 15 points, while Yeo Qian Lin Marylyn scored the highest five points for VAS.
However, KSEB and VAS are likely to take on each other again in the 9th-10th place playoff this coming Thursday, only if they to go lose to China's Bohai Bank Tianjin and PLDT of the Philippines respectively in their last preliminary match on Monday.
If things turn out to be like this, KSEB will finish fifth and VAS sixth at the end of their Pool B preliminaries on Monday. This will result in a rematch between them in the 9th-10th playoff.
Hosts Nakhonratchasim lose nail-biting 2-3 clash against Vietnam’s Lienvietpostbank
A large crowd of home spectators thronged into the Nakhonprathom Municipality Gymnasium on Sunday to support their side, but had to leave the venue with their heads bowed in great despair following the disappointment of their team.
With teamwork and tactics, Vietnam’s Thong Tin Lienvietpostbank – the team that beat Thailand League champions Idea Khonkaen 3-2 in the 2013 Asian Women’s Club – powered past the host squad.
Nakhonratchasima, fielding four national Thailand team players consisting of Thatdao Nuekjang, Pornpun Guedprad, Thaphaphaiphan Chaisri and Wanichaya Luangthonglang, pulled their games together.
Wanichaya, Thaphaphaiphan and Thatdao became the team’s backbones to uncork thundering cross-court spikes to take the third and fourth sets.
The do-or-die tie-brea saw Nakhonratchasima fail to make their mark at the final assault, to go down 10-15. The visitors jumped for joy after stunning the host team 3-2.
Do Thi Minh scored the highest 26 points, including 23 deadly hits for Thong Tin Lienvietpostbank, while Thaphaphaiphan Chaisri bagged 19 points for Nakhonratchasima.
“It’s a pity we played our best only in the third and fourth sets,” said Suthichai Chanbunchee, head coach of Nakhonratchasima. “My team’s performance did not live to my expectation. They made too many mistakes. Their reception was also poor.
“If we won the first set, my team would play more confidently and have a chance of winning this match. A daunting task awaits us in our next match against Japan’s Hisamitsu Springs. If we happen to lose the match against the Japanese, we are likely to challenge Kazakhstan’s Zhetyssu in the last eight teams which will decide teams in the semi-finals. I’m sorry that my team let all Thai fans down with our loss to the Vietnamese.”
Meanwhile, Japan’s Hisamitsu Springs – winners in the 2002 edition – have yet lost a set to their respective rivals. The Japanese had already beaten Vietnam’s Thong Tin Lienvietpostbank and Iran’s Matin Varamin to register two wins against no loss. They had a rest day on Sunday and will contest their last preliminary Pool A match against hosts Nakhonratchasima.
Five matches will be contested on Monday, the last day of the group round-robin preliminaries. The first encounter sees Taipei go up against Kazakhstan’s Zhetyssu, followed by the match between India’s KSEB and China’s Bohai Bank Tianjin. Singapore’s VAS will take on PLDT of the Philippines, with Iran’s Matin Varamin facing Vietnam’s Thong Tin Lienvietpostbank and Thailand’s Nakhonratchasima pitted against Japan’s Hisamitsu Springs.
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