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Thailand avenge Puerto Rico for first win

Thailand's Wilavan Apinyapong overcomes the taller Puerto Rican blockers with her fierce spike.
Bangkok, Thailand, August 13, 2010 - Thailand pulled off a dramatic 3-1 (23-25 25-17 25-23 25-19) win over a spirited Puerto Rico to snatch their first victory of the 2010 FIVB World Grand Prix at home in Bangkok on Friday.

With the win Thailand leapfrog Puerto Rico in the standings and now sit ninth overall.

Backed by their noisy home fans, the side got off to a great start to initially lead 10-6, thanks largely to Onuma Sittirak's powerful jump serves and dazzling attack hits. However, the Puerto Ricans pulled their game together, playing more confidently following their convincing straight-sets win over the Thais in last week's first leg in Chengdu, China. Fiercely-attacking Aurea Cruz gave Puerto Rico a strong comeback by attacking relentlessly at the post. Alexandra Oquendo and Sarai Alvarez also gave the Thais a tough time as they went on to win the set.

Though going down one set, the Asian champions came out strong to lead the second set. From there the host side had no problem finishing the set on top courtesy of captain Wilavan Apinyapong's aggression at the net and Onuma's well-placed serves.

The host girls continued their superb form in the third set when they mixed Onuma's mighty attacks with fast spikes by Pleumjit Thinkaow and blocking from the 189cm-tall Utaiwan Kaensing and Malika Kanthong to lead commandingly 20-14. However the visitors posed a strong challenge to close the gap at 23-23. The confident Thais, however, fared better in the final assault. They spiked, blocked and served with more confidence as they claimed the set 25-23.

Puerto Rico started well in the fourth set taking an early lead thanks to Sarai Alvarez's spectacular spikes. The visitors continued their attack hits to widen the gap to 7-3 and 13-11. However, Thailand improved, with Onuma Sittirak tearing the Puerto Rican defense to pieces with her fierce spikes. Thailand caught up with the visitors at 14-14 and took a 17-15 lead. Cheered on by the home crowd, the Thai girls never looked back to win the set 25-19 and the match.

Puerto Rico will take on Italy on Saturday as the hosts face the USA.


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