Bangkok, Thailand, August 16, 2009 – In-form Thailand played with guts in a mighty clash against the USA before overpowering the world No.2 with a magnificent come-from-behind 19-25 25-20 25-21 23-25 15-11 victory in their last match in the 2009 FIVB World Grand Prix preliminaries Pool I.
The USA, two-time champions and silver medalists at the last year’s Beijing Olympic Games, gained authority at the beginning when the host side apparently got off to a poor start.
Powerful left-hander Nancy Metcalf tore the Thai defence apart with her spectacular spikes to put the USA in front16-8 and advanced to 18-10. Thailand, cheered on by the nerve-wracking, drum-beating fans packing the Keelawes 1 Gymnasium to its 4,000 seating capacity, regained their composure. They hit back bravely to bag six successive points.
Leading narrowly 18-16, the USA launched waves of fierce attacks, with Metcalf overcoming the smaller blockers with her thundering spikes and Jordan Larson and Alexis Crimes producing solid blocks. The USA took the first set 25-19.
In the second set, the USA initially led 2-1 before the Thai players stormed back aggressively, with hard-attacking Wilavan Apinyapong producing mid-court smashes. Thailand caught the visitors at 5-5 and stretched it to 6-5, the first time in the match that the host side led the formidable rivals. They continued their leading way from then on.
The on-going battle became more thrilling with the USA attempting to close the margin. However, the Thais never looked back to win the hotly-contested set 25-20.
Thailand rolled on their great form in the third set. They showed the gutsy display, foiling the USA’s attempts of counter-attacking. Pleumjit Thinkaow came up with terrific jump serves, allowing the visitors tough times returning. The host team wrapped up the set 25-21.
With the home fans cheering them all the way, Thailand performed superbly to gain the upper hand in the fourth set 20-14. However, the USA did not give up easily. They played with more confidence and consistency. Their determination bore fruits shortly after that when the USA successfully closed the gap 23-23 and marched on to clinch the close set 25-23.
The do-or-die tie-breaker saw Thailand play every part of the game well to win the heart-pounding set 15-11 and the hard-fought encounter.