Hosts Thailand and China remain unbeaten at Asian Junior Women’s Championship
At Nakhon Pathom Gymnasium
In a near-flawless performance before large crowd of home enthusiasts, Thailand stunned Korea, which finished runners-up to the eventual winners China in the previous episode two years ago in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in a hotly-contested 25-20, 24-26, 25-23, 25-13 battle.
More than 3,000 spectators packed the competition venue to watch the thrilling Thailand-Korea encounter to decide the Pool E winners. Both teams remained unbeaten, with the host team yet to lose a set in the pool round-robin preliminaries.
The hosts got off to a promising start in the first set. Ajcharaporn Kongyot, who joined Thailand’s national senior team to capture the maiden AVC Cup title earlier this year, became the team’s mainstay. She regularly penetrated the Korean defence with her thundering cross-court spikes. Thailand took the hard-fought set 25-20.
Conceding one set, Korea counter-attacked well, with Shin Yeon-Gyeong, Lee Jae-yeong and An Hye-ri attacking aggressively. Though cheered by the drum-beating, screaming home crowds, Thailand lost their touch in the final assault to go down in a close battle 24-26.
Ajcharaporn led Thailand’s comeback in the third set when she uncorked a series of devastating spikes to help her team go ahead 17-14. However, the formidable visitors tightened their defence, giving the hosts a tough time scoring.
Thai coach Nataphon Srisamutnak asked for time-outs to improve his team’s erratic form. His efforts worked out well and the host side gradually pulled their game together. Kuttika Kaewpin stretched her hands to tear the Korean defence apart with her lightning-fast spikes, lifting Thailand to a 25-23 victory in the very closely-contested set.
Their confidence boosted by the 2-1 advantage, Thailand came out with more aggression in the fourth set, while Korea became more prone to unforced attacking mistakes. The host team won the set 25-13 and ended the exhausting 103-minute battle.
Ajcharaporn Kongyot led Thailand with 20 points, including 15 ace spikes, while team-mate Kuttika Kaewpin got 15 points from deadly attacks. Lee Jae-Yeong top scored for Korea with 18 points.
“Our first-ball reception still did not live up to staff coaches’ expectation in this match. We have a problem on combination between setter and spikers and require an immediate improvement to play our next matches. Fortunately, we played with a variety which proved a great asset for our win in this match,” Thailand coach Nataphon Srisamutnak commented after the match. “As far as I’m concerned, we have to improve our tactics on how to play taller rivals. Many players in my team played with a lack of confidence and had much pressure taking on taller and stronger rivals. Actually, we had a chance to win the second set, but as we could not maintain concentration, we finally lost the set.”
“We next take on India. I think it should be an easier task than facing Japan. If possible, I would like my team to challenge China in the showdown. We will try to make history with our young team as our senior side did in the recent AVC Cup win over China in the final match,” added Nataphon, who assisted Kiattipong Radchatagriengkai in coaching Thailand’s national senior women’s squad.
Iran was off to a dismal start, with poor reception against Kazakhstan allowing several attacking opportunities. The 182cm-tall Ardak Maratova proved her talent attacking the smaller blockers with her aggressive spikes, while Lrina Chumak carried out well-placed serves to help Kazakhstan win the opener 25-15.
Things turned sour for Kazakhstan in the second set, however, even though they played well up to their standard. Iran changed their tactics to rely more on excellent drops and spikes from the back court, causing Kazakhstan blocking difficulties. The Kazakhs hit back with mighty attacks, but their rivals, powered by smashing machine Neda Chamlanian, were uncatchable. Iran clinched the second set 25-23.
Kazakhstan used their height advantage to attack well in the following sets, but Iran blunted their aggression with splendid teamwork and a dramatically-improved form. To the rivals’ great astonishment, Iran captured the remaining sets 25-22 and 25-18.
Neda Chamlanian handed Iran 28 points, while Ardak Maratova claimed 17 points for Kazakhstan.
In the 9th-16 playoffs in Pool G, Sri Lanka captured their first win in the championship following a 25-6, 25-5, 25-13 win over the young, inexperienced Kuwait in a totally one-sided match.
Apsara Senewirathna emerged as the top scorer for Sri Lanka after winning 11 points, while Kuwaitis Shatha Al-huneidi, Lina Najem and Ebtesam Al-enezi gave their team one point apiece from their spikes.
Meanwhile, New Zealand made their mark in the match against Hong Kong to outclass their smaller-built rivals in straight sets (25-19, 25-10, 25-18).
Amelia Hunter claimed 16 points for New Zealand and Koo Yung Yung led Hong Kong with seven points, six of them from ace spikes.
At Ratchaburi Gymnasium
In a crucial match against Chinese Taipei, China, the FIVB world No.1 and nine-time champions, fielded a strong line-up with the likes of the 193cm Xu Ruayo, Zhu Ting and Tang Ningya. China wrapped up the first two sets without much trouble 25-9, 25-15.
In the third set, China rested their best players and instead fielded several substitutions including Chen Jial, Zhao Xiyu, Wang Fengjial and Yang Fangxu, giving Chinese Taipei a chance to come back.
Trailing narrowly 20-23, Chinese Taipei upped their tempo to overcome the taller blockers with brave attacks from Wu Wei-Hua and Hsu I-Mei.
Chinese Taipei came within a whisker of winning the set, but China performed superbly to foil their smaller rivals’ attempts. China captured the hard-fought set 25-22 and won the match.
Tang Ningya bagged 12 points for China, while Wu Wei-Hua led Chinese Taipei with 11 points.
The FIVB world No.7 and five-time champions Japan, disappointed by two straight losses to Chinese Taipei and China, came up in full force in the crucial match against India. They had few problems beating the Indians in comfortable straight sets (25-14, 25-8, 25-10).
Momoka Oda handed Japan 17 points, while India’s Anusri Ghosh scored four points, all from fierce spikes.
In the 9th-16th playoffs in Pool H, Mongolia outclassed Turkmenistan in straight sets (25-11, 25-22, 25-14). Davaajamts Erdenebulgan emerged as the best scorer for Mongolia, winning 15 points, while Medine Achilova top scored for Turkmenistan with eight points.
Meanwhile, Australia struggled hard to beat fighting Vietnam in a thrilling four-set battle (25-17, 21-25, 25-21, 26-24). Jessyka Ngauamo led Australia with 25 points, while Ha Ngoc Diem scored 20 points for Vietnam.
At the conclusion of the playoffs on Saturday, hosts Thailand emerged as the Pool E winners with nine points from three straight wins. Korea had six points from two wins against one loss to finish second. Iran collected three points from one win against two losses to come in third place, with lacklustre Kazakhstan in fourth position.
In Pool F, China, the only team yet to lose a single set to their rivals in the competition, captured the pole position with nine points from a clean sweep in the pool. Chinese Taipei finished second with five points from two wins against one loss, while Japan came in third place with four points from one win against two losses. India remained winless to finish fourth in the pool.
Among the lower-ranked sides in the 9th-16th classification, New Zealand topped Pool G with nine points from three straight wins, followed by Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and Kuwait.
Pool H was dominated by Australia following a clean sweep in the pool. Vietnam, Mongolia and Turkmenistan finished behind them.
In Nakhon Pathom
Pool E (1st-8th playoffs): Iran v Kazakhstan 3-1 (15-25, 25-23, 25-22, 25-18); Thailand v Korea 3-1 (25-20, 24-26, 25-23, 25-13)
Pool G (9th-16th playoffs): Sri Lanka v Kuwait 3-0 (25-6, 25-5, 25-13); New Zealand v Hong Kong 3-0 (25-19, 25-10, 25-18)
Pool F (1st-8th playoffs): Japan v India 3-0 (25-14, 25-8, 25-10); China v Chinese Taipei 3-0 (25-9, 25-15, 25-22)
Pool H (9th-16th playoffs: Mongolia v Turkmenistan 3-0 (25-11, 25-22, 25-14); Australia v Vietnam 3-1 (25-17, 21-25, 25-21, 26-24)
In Nakhon Pathom
12pm: China v Kazakhstan
2pm: Korea v Japan
4pm: Chinese Taipei v Iran
6pm: Thailand v India
12pm: Sri Lanka v Turkmenistan
2pm: Mongolia v Kuwait
4pm: New Zealand v Vietnam
6pm: Australia v Hong Kong