Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, September 21, 2013 – Hosts Thailand underlined their supremacy over the 17th Asian Senior Women’s Volleyball Championship after pulling off a stunning straight-set victory over heavyweights Japan in the thrilling hard-fought final showdown on Saturday.
Korea also delighted their supporters by producing a magnificent come-from-behind 3-2 (13-25, 17-25, 25-21, 25-23, 15-11) victory over title-holders and 12-time champions China in the third-place playoff.
For determined Thailand, the scintillating 3-0 (25-22, 25-18, 25-17) win over the world No.3 and the London Olympics bronze medalists earned them not only the second Asian crown in history but also a berth to test their mettle in the FIVB World Grand Champions Cup to be hosted by Japan coming November.
Additionally, Thailand have also secured their place for the next year’s FIVB World Grand Prix aside from winning a berth to compete in the AVC Cup, which they will be out to defend their title.
Thailand made history in 2009 by overpowering perennial winners China to capture their maiden Asian title in Hanoi, Vietnam. Their resounding success for the second time in the top-flight Asian meet this year delighted over 6,000 home fans inside the Chatchai Hall.
Against the formidable Japan, the team they had beaten 3-1 in the pool round-robin quarter-finals, Thailand fielded a strong line-up whose six players competed in the team which won their debut Asian crown in 2009. They comprised powerful attacker Onuma Sittirak, Wilvan Apinyapong, Pleumjiit Thinkaow, setter Nootsara Tomkom, Malika Kanthong and libero Wanna Buakaow. The team were also strengthened by teenaged rising spiker Thatdao Nuekjang.
Thailand took the splendid offensive combination of hard-hitting Wilavan’s sharp spikes at the post and powerful Onuma’s terrific jump serves with solid blocking by Nootsara and Pleumjit to take the exciting closely-contested opening set 25-22.
Conceding one set, the former three-time winners Japan, which beat Thailand twice early this year including the World Grand Prix Preliminaries in Ankara, Turkey, tried hard to gather their confidence in playing a tough match against the host side and a large crowd of the home fans, boisterously cheering their team all the way. Thailand remained in superb form, foiling all Japan’s determined attempts.
As Saori Kimuri’s mighty attacks did not work out pretty well and southpaw Miyu Nagaoka failed to make her mark in penetrating the Thai defence with her devastating cross-court spikes. Thailand still played consistently to clinch the second set 25-18.
In the third set, a fired-up Japan replaced off-form Nagaoka with Yukiko Ebata. Still, as fatigue started to take its toll in them, Japanlooked weary and became mistakes-prone. Thailand continued their consistent play, hitting as lightning to win the set 25-17 and the championship.
Onuma Sittirak still led Thailand with 17 points including 16 spectacular attacks from 38 attempts, Wilavan added 12 points from her fierce spikes. Malika Kanthong led the blocking skill with three points. Saori Kimura topscored with 10 points for Japan, but Miyu Nagaoka led in the attacking skill with eight points.
After the match, the Thai players jumped for joy, hugged each other and walked to the front of the VIP stands, sitting squat on the floor in a polite attitude and performed “wai” (a Thai-styled method of paying respect) on the Land of Smiles. And after that, they danced in circle, with hands on the next one’s shoulders. From then, they ran around the court to express sincere thanks to all fans in the venue.
“I’m very glad that my team won the Asian title for the second time. I thanked Japan to play us with their utmost effort. I think my players learned a lot from this tournament,” Thailand’s head coach Kiattipong Radchatagriengkai commented after the match.
“Every match was tough, but my players did their best. We learned from our first loss to Kazakhstan on the opening day and tried to improve for better results in our next encounters. Our attempts were then handsomely rewarded. I think there is a miracle in my team. We lost on the first day and left the competing venue on the final day with great pride and the eventual title.
“We next have to prepare well for the World Grand Champions Cup. After this, we will allow our players to rest for some times and we will let go those who will play in international leagues. All of them will gather for intensive training in preparation for that tournament in November. I think we are walking on the right track. We have learned many things from this Asian meet and I praised my players for their dedication in learning from the mistakes we made,” he added.
In the third-place playoff earlier, the legendary coach Lang Ping’s Chinese team captured the first two sets against Korea, the team they had beaten in straight sets in the pool round-robin quarter-finals earlier, 25-13 and 25-17.
However, star spiker Kim Yeon-Koung gave Korea a strong comeback. Despite relentless explosive attacks, China, with the likes of the195cm Zhu Ting, the 195cm Xu Yunli, Hu Ruoqi and Zhang Lei, became more prone with unforced mistakes, allowing the Korea’s attacking opportunities. Speedy South Korea covered the court marvelously and counter-attacked well to sweep the remaining three sets 25-21, 25-23, 15-11 and the third place.
High-profile Kim Yeon-Koung scored a match-high 33 points including 27 kills from 79 attempts, while Hui Ruoqi led China with 21 points.
After the match, China’s head coach Lang Ping left the players’ room in despair and refused to give any comment. An English-speaking Chinese journalist said, “I had a chance to interview coach Lang Ping. She said that the Chinese reception was not good and they also had poor defence. Lang said that her players became very tired of playing five sets with Thailand in the semi-finals on the previous day, some even could not sleep well. After the first two sets, Zhu Ting said she was tired and coach Lang decided to replace her with Wang Yimei.”
Earlier, Kazakhstan claimed the fifth place in this championship following a hard-fought five-set win over Vietnam, the team they had already beaten in the pool round-robin preliminaries. Against the fast-improving Vietnam, Kazakhstan recovered from losing the first two sets 18-25 18-25 to take the remaining three sets 30-28, 25-21, 15-6.
In the 7th-8th place playoff, Chinese Taipei proved too strong for Iran to brush off the less-experienced rivals in comfortable straight sets 25-9, 25-16, 25-17.
Former Thai deputy prime minister Suwat Liptapanlop, Ranongrak Suwanchawee, chairman of the Nakhon Ratchasima Provincial Administration Organisation, and Mr Wei Jizhong, the Honorary Life President of FIVB and AVC, jointly presided over the awarding and closing ceremonies.
Hosts Thailand captured the title in the 17th Asian Senior Women’s Championship, with Japan and Korea in second and third places.
Thailand will represent Asia for the FIVB World Grand Champions Cup in Japan in November (Japan qualified as hosts), while Thailand andKorea have secured tickets for next year’s FIVB World Grand Prix (China and Japan qualified automatically).
Saturday’s final results
7th-8th playoff: Chinese Taipei bt Iran 3-0 (25-9, 25-16, 25-17)
5th-6th playoff: Kazakhstan bt Vietnam 3-2 (18-25, 18-25, 30-28, 25-21, 15-6)
Third-place playoff: Korea bt China 3-2 (13-25, 17-25, 25-21, 25-23, 15-11)
Championship match: Thailand bt Japan 3-0 (25-22, 25-18, 25-17)
7. Chinese Taipei
11. Independent Team from India
12. The Philippines
13. Hong Kong
15. Sri Lanka
Best Spiker: Zhu Ting (China)
Best Blocker: Xu Yunli (China)
Best Server: Kim Yeon-Koung (Korea)
Best Scorer: Kim Yeon-Koung (Korea)
Best Setter: Nootsara Tomkom (Thailand)
Best Libero: Kim Hae-Ran (Korea)
Most Valuable Player: Wilavan Apinyapong (Thailand)