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Asian Women’s Club Volleyball Championship moves into semifinals

Tianjin's Li Ying tries to drop over the Iranian blockers at the wing

Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, April 23, 2014 – Tensions over the disputed semifinals of the Asian Women’s Club Volleyball Championship at the Nakhonpathom Municipality Gymnasium are high, with in-form Taipei setting up a rematch against Bohai Bank Tianjin while Hisamitsu Springs will take on Zhetyssu.

Hisamistu Springs v. PLDT

A fired-up Hisamistu Springs, champions in the Japan Volleyball Premier League this season and the Asian women’s club winners in 2002, overwhelmed PLDT of the Philippines in straight sets 3-0 (25-7, 25-13, 25-12). 

Hisamitsu started strongly with its formidable spikers Yuki Ishii, Miyu Nagaoka, Kanako Hirai, Nana Iwasaka and Risa Shinnabe, all of them national Japan team players, while PLDT of the Philippines were strengthened by former Cuban star spiker Bell Mackenzie Regla Maritza, 197cm-tall Santiago Alyja Daphne and gifted Anne Daquis Rachel. 

Hisamitsu came up with superb skills and excellent teamwork, with the powerful southpaw Nagaoka hitting cross-court smashes like lightning and Nana Iwasaka producing well-placed serves to help the Japanese side capture the pole position in the opening set 18-4. PLDT tried to respond with sharp attacks from Bell Mackenzie and Santiago, but their attempts could not pay its fruition due to Japan’s impenetrable defence. Hisamitsu easily clinched the totally one-sided set 25-7. 

The second set was still dominated by Hisamitsu, which raced to a commanding 8-2 lead, thanks to Ishii’s devastating spikes and Chizuru Kotoh’s great serves. Leading 18-10, Hisamitsu made use of the offensive combination of scintillating blockings by Nagaoka and Yumi Mizuta and Nagaoka’s thundering spikes to take the second set 25-13. 

Hisamitsu, whose head coach Kumi Nakada was unwell and could not be present at the venue, remained strong tactically in the third set to lead 6-3 before Nagaoka and Mizuho Ishida helped widen the margin 17-9 and 24-12, with their powerful spikes and deceptive drops. PLDT’s Suzanne Roces handed Hisamitsu the last point 25-12 and a semifinal berth when her serve went to the net. 

Rika Nomoto topscored with eight points for Hisamitsu Springs, while Regla Maritza Bell Mackenzie bagged 11 crucial points for PLDT including nine from attack hits and two serves. 

“We played according to plan. PLDT are very strong with good spikes, especially Bell Mackenzie’s attacks. I’m delighted that my team now made it to the semifinals. It’s likely we have to take on Kazakhstan’s Zhetyssu. They are much taller than us with high blocking and hard attacks. We have to improve on our offensive and defensive tactics to beat them,” said Hisamitsu’s assistant coach Kiyoshi Abo. 

Zhetyssu v. Lienvienpostbank

In the Thursday’s semifinal clash, Hisamitsu, the only team not to have lost a single set to their respective opponents, are set to face off with Kazakhstan’s Zhetyssu, which claimed a dramatic 3-1 (25-27, 25-19, 25-19, 25-18) victory over Vietnam’s Thong Tin Lienvietpostbank. 

Zhetyssu, whose average height is 184cm, were led by Alena Omenchenko (195cm tall), Lyudmila Anarbayeva (192cm tall) and powerful attacker Tatyana Pyurova, while the experienced Do Thi Minh led the Lienvietpostbank’s charge. 

Zhetyssu struggled in the first set while the Vietnamese performed superbly to foil their taller rivals’ attacking attempts. Lienvienpostbank took an initial 19-13 lead. Zhetyssu gradually pulled their games together and counterattacked well to close the margin 23-23. As the game became more tense, the determined Vietnamese fought back bravely to win the final assault 27-25 in the closely-contested battle. 

Going down in the first set, Zhetyssu revived their fortunes in the next two sets. With Pyurova and Anarbayeva penetrating the Vietnamese defence with their aggressive attacks, the Kazakhs clinched the second and the third sets 25-19, 25-19.

Zhetyssu continued their winning streak in the fourth set to lead 18-14 and stretched it to 24-18. Pyurova produced a devastating mid-court spike to end the smaller-built oppositions 25-18, winning the match and a semifinal ticket. 

Lyudmila Anarbayeva scored a match-high of 22 points for Zhetyssu, while Lienvietpostbank scored their highest, 20 points from veteran Do Thi Minh. 

Bohai Bank Tianjin v. Matin Varamin

Meanwhile, Chinese powerhouses Bohai Bank Tianjin overcame their nervousness in the first set to power past Iran’s Matin Varamin in straight sets 3-0 (25-17, 25-9, 25-13) in 61 minutes. 

Indomitable giants Tianjin, which have already landed the Asian Club crown four times in 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2012, relied on their formidable line-up led by Yin Na, Wei Qiuyue, Chen Liyi and Wang Jiamin, while hard-attacking Maedeh Borhanie spearheaded the Iranians, who pulled out a surprise 3-2 win over Vietnam’s Thong Tin Lienvietpostbank in the round-robin preliminaries. 

Both Tianjin and Matin Varamin opened up with aggression and exchanged attacks from the beginning which saw the scores tied at 6-6. From then on, the mighty Chinese proved a cut above the Iranians. Powerful Chen Liyi and Li Ying worked through the Iranian defence with their spikes to advance 12-9 and 24-16. In a critical situation, Shekoufeh Safari’s aggressive spike went unanswered to save one set point for Matin Varamin, but their challenge did not last long. Wang Ning produced a lightning-fast spike to the back court for the Tianjin’s 25-17 win in the opening set. 

Conceding the one-set deficit, Matin Varamin held their nerves to come up with good spikes and serves, but their tactics could not match the Chinese brilliance. Tianjin continued their remarkable run to win the totally one-sided set 25-9. 

The third set still belonged to Tianjin, which carried out fierce spikes and scintillating blockings. The Chinese rolled on their rhythm to capture the set 25-13, the match and a semifinal berth. 

Chen Liyi, who also plays for China’s national team, collected 13 points for Tianjin, 12 of them through devastating attacks, while Maedeh Borhanie topscored with 11 points for Matin Varamin.

“It’s a good match. We won easily because the Iranians are not too strong. I’m very happy that we have already made it to the semifinals. No matter which team, Nakhonratchasima or Taipei, we will play in the semifinals, we have to prepare well and improve on our reception and attacking. We will do our best to beat the rival for a place in the final,” said Tianjin’s head coach Wang Baoquan. 

In the do-or-die semifinal encounter, Tianjin will set a rematch with Taipei, the team they had already beaten 3-1 in the Group B round-robin preliminaries.

Nakhonratchasima v. Taipei

Thai hearts sank on Wednesday when Taipei, which came much stronger in this top-flight tournament this time, undermined Nakhonratchasima’s dreams of making the cut for the semifinals by producing a magnificent come-from-behind 3-1 (19-25, 25-14, 25-22, 27-25) victory over the host side. 

Nakhonratchasima got off to a confident start after racing to a commanding 10-6 lead in the first set, thanks to the impressive combination of Thatdao Nuekjang and Thaphaphaiphan Chaisri. Despite a determined challenge, Taipei failed to make their mark to go down 19-25 in the opener. 

Hard-attacking Chen Wan-Ting was the visitors’ strong comeback in the next two sets. Taipei performed an impassable defence with spectacular spikes from Chen Wan-Ting to take the second and third sets 25-14, 25-22 for a 2-1 advantage. 

The fourth set became more thrilling with Nakhonratchasima leading initially and Taipei hot on their heels. Things turned sour for the home side who led commandingly until 12-9 but became more prone to serving and spiking mistakes, allowing Taipei scoring opportunities. After some rally points, the in-form visitors held an 18-18 draw. With a large number of home fans cheering loudly, Nakhonratchasim started to produce the goods to lead 24-21, needing only one more point to make amends in the decider. 

However, they just let the set win slip through their fingers. Taipei found their touch to take three successive points to reach a thrilling 24-24. They allowed the Thais only one more point to win the set 27-25, match and  semifinal berth. 

Despite the loss, Nakhonratchasima’s head coach Suthichai Chanbunchee admitted that his team performed well, but they just made many mistakes when they had scoring opportunities. 

“It’s a loss we will never forget. We just failed to score points when given attacking opportunities. My team played nervously in some moments and Taipei fought back heavily. It’s a pity we made too many mistakes in the fourth set. If not, we could make amends in the deciding set. It’s a bit upsetting that we can’t accomplish our goal of making it to the semifinals. I apologise to all Thai fans,” said a sad Suthichai. 

On Thursday, the first match sees India’s KSEB and Singapore’s VAS battle it out for the ninth place. In the 5 to 8 place playoffs, PLDT of the Philippines takes on Vietnam’s Thong Tin Lienvietpostbank and Thailand’s Nakhonratchasima challenge Iran’s Matin Varamin. 

In the semifinals, Japan’s Hisamitsu Springs takes on Kazakhstan’s Zhetyssu and Taipei set up a rematch against China’s Bohai Bank Tianjin.  



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