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.
Japan’s Hisamitsu Springs vs. Thailand’s Nakhonratchasima
Hisamitsu Springs came carrying their ultimate dream of ending Japan’s gold drought in the prestigious championship. As 2002 champions and the winners in the Japan Volleyball Premier League this season, Hisamitsu fielded a strong line-up with the likes of southpaw Miyu Nagaoka, Risa Shinnabe, Yuki Ishii and Kanako Hirai in an entertaining clash against hosts Thailand’s Nakhonratchasima in Group A.
Miyu Nagaoka remained the major weapon of Hisamitsu to emerge as the top scorer of the team with 16 points, all from attack hits. Huttaya Bamrungsuk scored a match-high 10 points for Nakhonratchasima.
“It’s a tight match, especially in the third set,” said Hisamitsu’s head coach Kumi Nakada. “We had fun playing this match because the Thai fans cheered both sides all the way. My players did a good job in this match, but the Thai team also played well with good spikes and reception. I changed several players during the match because I would like them to gain experience before next playing tough matches.”
Also satisfied with his players, Nakhonratchasima’s head coach Suthichai Chanbunchee commented that his team still has many things to learn and prepare for next matches.
“I’m happy with their form,” he said. “Staff coaches helped check individual skills and their performance really lived up to my expectation. Against Taipei in our next clash, we still have many things to learn. I have yet studied Taipei’s tactics, but I’m confident we can cope well with their technique. We have to train much harder on reception and spiking tactics. I’m upbeat we can play a good fight against Taipei.”
Iran’s Matin Varamin vs. Vietnam’s Thong Tin Lienvietpostbank
The other Pool A match saw Iran’s Matin Varamin come from nowhere to stun Vietnam’s Thong Tin Lienvietpostbank – which beat the host side 3-2 the day prior – in a closely-contested five-set battle 3-2 (25-23, 16-25, 25-21, 15-25, 15-9) in a grueling 116 minutes.
It was a seesaw contest, and both sides gave it all they had. They traded sharp attacks and good blockings. After holding 2-2 sets, Matin Varamin performed superbly in the exciting decider, which saw the Iranians led from the start to finish.
Maedeh Borhane scored the highest 24 points for Matin Varamin, with Do Thi Minh turning a smashing machine for Thong Tin Lienvietpostbank to score massive 30 points.
China’s Bohai Bank Tianjin vs. India’s KSEB
Four-time champions Tianjin ended their group preliminaries with a bang following a scintillating straight-set 3-0 (25-8, 25-7, 25-10) victory over India’s KSEB in Pool B.
Though the match was not that tough, Tianjin, which finished second in the Chinese Volleyball League this season, fielded a formidable line-up including Chen Liyi, Yin Na and Wang Jiamin. This was in line with what head coach Wang Baoquan had said earlier that he wanted to check his team’s condition in this match whether they remain in good form and the title can still be within their reach.
“If they played below-standard in this match, I think Hisamitsu Springs will beat us for sure to take the title away,” Wang said. “That’s what counts for the Chinese giants when they displayed exceptional performance to beat KSEB in a totally lop-sided clash.”
Zhang Xiaoting was the top scorer for Tianjin with 13 points, while Purayil Puthiya bagged seven points for KSEB.
Kazakhstan’s Zhetyssu vs. Taipei
Also competing in Pool B was Zhetyssu. The Kazakh team was given a serious threat by Taipei on their crucial match on Monday. Zhetyssu fielded mostly Kazakhstan national team players including the two towers, 195cm-tall Alena Omelchenko and 192cm Lyudmila Anarbayeva, hard-attacking Tatyana Pyurova and Olga Karpova.
Utilising the height advantage to attack aggressively and block solidly, Zhetyssu had a little problems in outclassing the well-established rivals.
Alena Omelchenko was the top scorer of Zhetyssu after collecting 20 points, with Chen Wan-Ting scoring a match-high 14 points for Taipei.
Philippine’s PLDT vs. Singapore’s VAS
The match between PLDT and Singapore’s VAS saw the Philippine team – powered by former Cuban superstar Bell Mackenzie Regla Maritza, ace spiker Rachel Anne Daquis and Santiago Alyja Daphne – dominate the game.
Though putting up a gallant fight, the inexperienced VAS failed to make their mark in an effort of making a good match against the stronger PLDT.
PLDT gained most of its points from Bell Mackenzie Regla Maritza, who scored 23 points including 16 devastating spikes and five ace serves, while Chan Zhen Jolly claimed seven points for VAS.
At the completion of the group round-robin preliminaries on Monday, Japan’s Hisamitsu Springs top Group A with nine points from a perfect sweep of three wins, followed by hosts Nakhonratchasima with four points from one win against two losses. Vietnam’s Thong Tin Lienvietpostbank and Iran’s Matin Varamin came in third and fourth places with three and two points respectively.
China’s Bohai Bank Tianjin were the Group B winners after collecting 15 points from straight five wins and no losses. Kazakhstan’s Zhetyssu finished second with 12 points from four wins against one loss. Taipei came in third place with nine points from three wins against two losses. PLDT of the Philippines were placed fourth in the group with six points from two wins against three losses. India’s KSEB and Singapore’s VAS finished fifth and sixth places respectively.
Tuesday is a rest day for all teams. The round of last eight teams will be held on Wednesday. Hisamitsu Springs will take on PLDT at 12:00 local time, followed by the match between Bohai Bank Tianjin and Matin Varamin. Nakhonratchasima will battle it out with Taipei and Thong Tin Lienvietpostbank challenge Zhetyssu.
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