Chongqing, China, March 9, 2017 – Hosts China and title-holders Japan continued invincible run at the “SMM” 11th Asian Girls’ U18 Volleyball Championship at the Chongqing No.8 Secondary School Gymnasium on Thursday, with the former surviving a sturdy challenge from Thailand and the latter thrashing Korea in comfortable straight sets.
China, former four-time champions and bronze medallists at the previous edition in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, stayed on course following their dramatic 25-14 22-25 18-25 25-14 15-13 win over determined Thailand after a hard-fought five-set thriller in exhausting two hours.
Smart float serving, powerful blocking and great work in defense secured a five-point advantage for China at the first technical time-out in the opening set against Thailand, to whom they went down 2-3 in the top-8 playoff clash at the previous meet in 2014.
The Chinese reduced their unforced mistakes to capture the commanding 16-10 lead at the second technical timeout. The strong visitors tried to make amends for a comeback, but the Chinese did not lose focus and won the first set 25-14.
The second set was a complete turnaround as Thailand surged ahead China 4-3. With prolific blocking and spiking, China hit back to level the scores at 6-6. However, China missed some golden opportunities to lag behind 13-16 and committed up to eight unforced errors to drop the set 22-25.
Thailand regained their confidence and drew first blood at the beginning of the third set, jumping out to a 7-1 lead. China lost their focus again, making a series of attacking errors to suffer a 13-20 disadvantage. Thailand pulled away and won the set convincingly 25-18.
The rhythm of the match went in favour of China in the fourth set, as they established a 16-7 lead at the second technical time-out. Despite Thailand’s determined attempts to get back into the match, China gave them no chance to run away with the set win 25-14.
The thrilling tie-breaker saw both teams trade points and tie the score at 3-3, 6-6 and 12-12. China took a slim lead 14-12 but could not seize the set point out of a faulty service which allowed Thailand one last chance to come within a whisker of catching the strong rivals. The host side eventually captured the hotly-contested set 15-13 and match.
Piyarat Buddawong was on fine form in attack, registering a match-high 23 points for Thailand from 77 attempts, while Sun Xiaoxuan scored highest 19 points for China.
“My girls’ techniques are not very good. They have some mistakes in setting and defense. I’m not pleased with their performances. They got a few points from the success of blocking.” commented by Xu Jiande, head coach of China
Meanwhile, defending and six-time champions Japan breezed past Korea in comfortable straight sets 25-6 25-14 25-21 to maintain their remarkable unbeaten record without losing a set in this top-flight championship.
The first set showed Japan’s poise in attacks and defense, while Korea could hardly score a point seeing their opponent lead all the way. With four points from Japan’s errors and two from attacking, Korea conceded the first set 6-25 just in 18 minutes.
The next set followed the same pattern as Japan quickly established a lead and kept control of the set. The battle was completely one-sided and Japan cruised to a 25-14 win.
The Koreans briefly came to life in the third set. Nonetheless, while they were determinedly chasing to narrow the gap, it turned out that Japan were just too strong to be defeated as they convincingly won the tough battle 25-21 and match.
Yuki Nishikawa of Japan topped the scoring charts with 21 points while Ko Uijeong pocketed nine points for Korea.
“Korea are a very good team. However, I did not expect that we can beat them in three sets.” said Daichi Saegusa, head coach of Japan.
In the other two encounters, Chinese Taipei rallied to a comprehensive 3-0 (25-16 25-12 25-10) win in their matchup with New Zealand, highlighting 10 ace serves, while Hong Kong stunned Australia with a fantastic comeback 3-1 (14-25 25-21 25-18 26-24) victory.
Lee Tingyi led Chinese Taipei with 11 points from 29 attempts, while pretty Paniora Phoenix contributed seven points for New Zealand.
“We are mainly preparing for the quarter-finals the day after tomorrow. We want every girl to get full preparation for the match. We allowed every substitution to get involved in this game. After all they are teenagers, and everyone should be trained.” said Kuang Chintu, head coach of Chinese Taipei.
Australians could almost pull the match into a five-setter but their crucial error in a critical moment of the fourth set handed Hong Kong the set win 26-24 for the eventual 3-1 win.
Schoof Anneliese scored a match-high 15 points followed by Coleman Anmee with 14 points, but could not help Australia taste their maiden victory. Chan Hoiying and Wong Waiting contributed similar 13 points to Hong Kong for the team’s triumph.
“Our performance today is very disappointing. Hong Kong played very well. They got what they deserved. We are upset that we played well in the first set, but could not maintain our form. We are very disappointed not with the results but with the form we played,” said Boris Georgieff, head coach of Australia.
“Today we have a really wonderful match. My girls’ performance is awesome. They are getting better and better. All kinds of techniques or cooperation are very good. The team spirit is very great today. We want to win this match and these girls are becoming mature. Under the pressure, they can still perform well. This is a really unforgettable match. I hope we can become better and better as I said before.” said Mak Tse Shun, head coach of Hong Kong.
“Actually, during this morning’s practice, they didn’t perform well. They just could not concentrate on the training and practice. I put efforts to make aware of this important match. So this is the vital reason of our winning today.”
The quarter-finals will take place Saturday with Japan taking on Australia, Thailand going up against Chinese Taipei, China facing New Zealand and Korea playing Hong Kong.
Top four teams in this tournament will qualify to the 2017 FIVB Volleyball Girls’ U18 World Championship in Argentina from August 18 to 27, 2017.