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Rio 2016 gold medallists lead Jiangsu to China title

Jiangsu Zenith Steel of Nanjing celebrate their first China title after beating Zhejiang Rural Commercial Bank of Jiashan in the fourth match of the final series.
Jiashan, China, March 18, 2017- Jiangsu Zenith Steel of Nanjing achieved the greatest success in their history by winning the women's 2016-17 China League for the very first time. The visitors defeated Zhejiang Rural Commercial Bank of Jiashan 3-1 (21-25, 25-23, 20-25, 20-25) in fourth leg of the best-of-five final series in Jiashan gymnasium on Saturday night.

The score remained close in the opening stage of the first set, Jiangsu Zenith Steel rallied to an early 11-9 lead and concreted the advantage to a 24-18 before Zhejiang Rural Commercial Bank came back fighting to close in 24-21 by saving three consecutive set points. Gong Xiangyu finished the set for Jiangsu.

In the second set, both sides traded points and repeatedly tied the the score to 11-11. The guests chased to 17-18 before Hui Ruoqi and Zhang Changning of Jiangsu Zenith Steel reversed the score to 22-20. Afterwards, Wang Minhui of Zhejiang Rural Commercial Bank earned the set point and the outside hitter blocked another attack from their opponent. The home team closed the set in 25-23.

Jiangsu Zenith Steel gradually showed their dominance in the third set as the team from Nanjing broadened the gap all the way from 15-13 to 20-15 with successive strong attacks contributed by Hui Ruoqi and Zhang Changning. The hosts took advantage of Jiangsu's errors and chased back to 20-18, however, Jiangsu Zenith Steel quickly got back on track, winning 25-20.

The fourth set saw Zhejiang Rural Commercial Bank taking weak advantage (14-13) in the half first stage, followed by a series of counterattacks from Jiangsu Zenith Steel, who ended the match in 25-20.

Li Jing bore the majority of the scoring with a total of 28 points for for Jiashan, Rio Olympic Champions Hui Ruoqi and Zhang Changning were the joint top-scores for the winning team with 20 points. Another Olympic Champion, the opposite Gong Xiangyu also contributed 17 points.

Hui Ruoqi, the captain of Chinese Rio National squad who returned from heart surgery in 2016, showing gratitude to her head coach Cai Bin and her fellow teammates. "I would thank their trust, for allowing me exceptional adjustment in the training, so I could have a good rest and retain energetic. It was not an easy decision," Hui said during the post-match interview.

Jiangsu have been four-time runners-up and three-time bronze medallists in the past 21 years since the home-and-away system was introduced in National Volleyball League in 1996. The other six teams to have ever claimed the title are Shanghai, the Army, Tianjin, Liaoning, Guangdong Evergrande and Zhejiang.

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