India women team enter final round of Women’s Volleyball Championship Qualification Asian Zone
Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, June 26, 2013 – India wrote a new chapter of their volleyball history on Wednesday following a stunning 25-19 25-14 26-24 victory over Uzbekistan to secure their final-round place in the 2014 FIVB World Women’s Volleyball Championship Qualification Asian Zone.
It was the first time ever that the India’s senior women’s volleyball team made it to the continental final round. The victory achieved before a big crowd inside the Nakhon Pathom Sports Centre Gymnasium saw the Indian players jump for joy, while everyone in the team was all smiles.
India and Uzbekistan were the only two teams contesting the Central Zonal Women’s Qualification Tournament, from which only the winning team would make it to the 10-team final.
India, ranked 103rd in the world, came out in full force, with the 184cm-tall Abraham Mini Mol penetrating the Uzbekh defence with her fierce attacks to help the well-organised Indians take the commanding 22-19 lead in the opening set.
Though smaller in size, the Indians, whose height average is 166cm against Uzbekistan’s 176cm, excelled in defence, winning successive three points to capture the comfortable first set 25-19.
Going down one set, world No.63 Uzbekistan regrouped and hit back with Elmira Rajabova, 185cm, unleashing spectacular cross-court spikes. However, their game became more prone with unforced mistakes, while India played more confidently. The set turned out to become a one-sided affair and India wrapped up the easy set 25-14.
The third set was more thrilling as the battling Uzbekistan led the determined rivals all the way. India gradually pulled their game together and hit back heavily with devastating attacks and effective mid-court drops to level 24-24 and stormed on to win the hard-fought set 26-24, the match and a final round berth.
M.S. Poornima led India with 16 points including 11 attacking hits. Captain Abraham Mini Mol also assisted the team with 11 kills. Agata Matyakubova scored a match-high nine points for Uzbekistan.
After the match, India’s head coach Meena Mahalingam expressed her satisfaction over her players’ historic victory.
“This is our first time to play in the qualification and it’s very great that we could make it to the final round for the first time ever,” Mahalingam said. “The India national senior women’s team have never made it to the final round before. That’s why we are all happy with the team’s maiden success.”
“We played well with good reception. We had a good combination and our first-ball reception lived up to my expectation. If the reception is good, it’s quite important that attacks could be successful. The third set was a bit difficult for us. Uzbekistan improved their game and played with just a few mistakes. They came on and on with fierce attacks, but my players are very confident and played well in crucial moments.
“We trained one month in preparation for this tournament. Actually, we are training for the Asian Championship in September in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand. This Indian team will play there at that time,” she said.
Meanwhile, Japan and China will host the Asia's final round in Pool A and B respectively in September. Teams ranked 1-5 in the FIVB world ranking - Japan, China, Thailand, South Korea and Kazakhstan - did not compete in the zonal round and automatically qualified for the final round.
Australia and New Zealand also qualified automatically since no other team registered in their Oceania Zone, while Vietnam topped the Southeastern Zone competition last month to join them in the final round.
With eight teams altogether advancing, only two teams comprising one apiece from Central Zone and Southern Zone will complete the team rosters for the final round, where the draw will be made shortly after the conclusion of all zonal rounds.
The final round will be split into five teams each in Pool A and Pool B and the top two teams from each pool will book their berths in the 2014 FIVB World Women’s Volleyball Championship in Italy.