Teams ready to battle for Asian Women's Club Championship, ticket to FIVB Club World Championship
Eleven countries have already confirmed their participation in the top-flight Asian Club competition from April 17 to 25 in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, to decide the team that will represent Asia in the FIVB Volleyball Women's Club World Championship 2014 in Zurich, Switzerland from May 7 to 11.
According to the draw,the participating club teams from 11 countries have been divided into two pools, with teams from Vietnam (Thong Tin Lienvietpostbank), Turkmenistan, Iran, Japan (Hisamitsu Spring) and hosts Thailand (Nakhonratchasima) in Pool A. Pool B comprises Kazakhstan, India, Chinese Taipei (Taipei), Singapore, the Philippines (PLDT) and China (Bohai Bank Tianjin).
Last year, China's Guangdong Evergrande, led by legendary coach Lang Ping, reigned supreme in the Asian Club to be pitted against the top teams in the 2013 FIVB Volleyball Women's Club World Championship, winning third place.
This year, Bohai Bank Tianjin, which clinched the last year's Chinese Volleyball League, will pursue dreams of winning the eighth Asian Club title for China as well as a berth for the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship in May.
Thailand’s Nakhonratchasima Club were leading the charge at the end of the season-opening Thailand League in early March and chosen as the Thailand's club team to test their mettle in the next month's Asian Club tournament.
Thailand, fielding all national players, have won the Asian Club title three times in a row from 2009 to 2011, playing under the Federbrau's banner in the first two years and the Chang Club in the third year. In 2012, Thailand's Chang Club finished third to eventual winners Tianjin Bridgestone from China and second-place Toray Arrows from Japan.
Last year, Thailand was represented by Idea Khon Kaen Club. The Thailand League champions managed to finish a disappointing seventh position out of eight teams contesting the Asian Club tournament in Buon Ma Thuot, Vietnam.
Out to prove his team's talents in the Asian Club meet on home soil, Suthichai Chanbunchee, head coach of the Nakhonratchasima Club and former head coach of national Thailand team, has accepted that his side will have to work hard in preparation for the tournament.
"This is our club's first time to represent Thailand in the Asian Women's Club Championship. Last year, the Thailand League champions Idea Khon Kaen finished seventh, we (Nakhonratchasima), therefore, cannot underestimate any rival teams," said Suthichai.
"A daunting task awaits my team in the tough tournament,” he said. “However, as the competition will be held on home soil, I'm convinced that home spectators will help boost our confidence and spirit. I myself have targeted my team to finish top four in the Asian Club meet.
"Japan’s Hisamitsu Spring are likely to be the strongest in our Pool A, while our first match against team from Turkmenistan on April 17 should not be that difficult. However, to make sure the top-four target can be possible for our team, we have to make our preparation possibly the best and play every match well."
The Thai head coach said that his squad will be led by two national spikers, Jarasporn Bandasak and Wanichaya Luangtonglang. Nevertheless, Nakhonratchasima Club have also been calling other potential players including three national spikers playing in different domestic clubs, Thapaphaiphan Chaisri, Tatdao Nuekchaeng and Atcharaporn Kongyot, to strengthen the team for a high-performance achievement in the Asian Club meet.
"We're now training intensively in our home town Nakhon Ratchasima and already decided to leave for the host province Nakhon Pathom on April 14. We won't undergo strict training, but ours will be consistently high standard in a friendly relaxed manner. We (staff coaches) have to keep eyes on individual players in the team if each of them is fit physically and mentally. I think a serious one-month training in our home town will make us ready for our tough matches in the Asian Club meet in Nakhon Pathom," Suthichai said.
The “Princess Cup” 2014 Chang-Asian Women's Club Volleyball Championship will take place at the Nakhon Pathom Municipality Gymnasium in Nakhon Pathom from April 17 to 25, with the winners joining five teams to vie for the FIVB Women's Club World Championship title.
Three teams have already qualified for the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship in May. They comprise host club Volero Zurich, Brazil's SESI-SP, which won the 14th Women's South American Club Championship in February, and Russia's Dinamo Kazan, which beat world club champions VikifBank Istanbul from Turkey in straight sets in the final showdown at the recent CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League in Baku, Azerbaijan.
A further two teams - jointly decided by the FIVB and the organisers - will complete the line-up of clubs taking part in the World Club Championship event.