Chongqing, China, March 12, 2017 – Hosts China struggled hard to beat Korea with a fantastic comeback five-set win at the semi-finals of the “SMM” 11th Asian Girls’ U18 Volleyball Championship to set up a final showdown with defending and six-time champions Japan on Monday.
More than 2,000 home fans turned out on Sunday to support their team in a do-or-die battle against Korea, the team they had beaten in straight sets in the third-place playoff at the previous edition in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand in 2014. China recovered from the first two sets loss 19-25 14-25 to win the remaining three sets 25-23 25-19 15-13 in a gruelling 120-minute encounter against the formidable Koreans.
The Chinese team next go up against Japan in the showdown, the sixth final among them at the biennial competition. Japan on Sunday sent Thailand packing in comfortable straight sets 25-8 25-12 25-19.
With a sluggish start, China had to call an early timeout while trailing 1-4 to avoid a gap with wide margin. The host girls performed better after getting back to the court, counter-attacking well to surge ahead the strong visitors 16-15 at the second technical timeout. However, from then on the Chinese became prone with up to 10 unforced errors to see things turn sour. Korea went on their fine form to secure the first set 25-19.
The second set saw China almost lose their morale since trailing 14-15 as they found it tough going from that point and let the Koreans win the remaining 10 points to take the set 25-14.
Boisterous cheers and nerve-wracking screams from the home crowds on site awakened the oriental sleeping dragon in time in the third set as they resisted barrages of aggressive Korean attacks from time to time. The Chinese held on to win a close third set 25-23.
Korea got into a flap in the fourth set as their game was riddled with errors, trapped in a large hole from trailing 14-15 to 14-22. China snared the set 25-19 on the stretch to force a tie-break.
In the heart-pounding decider, China and Korea gave it all-out, but the former advanced narrowly 14-13 before Sun Xiaoxuan jumped for a kill, her 19th point and the team’s highest score in the match. China won the hard-fought set 15-13, match and a final showdown.
Lee Juah scored a match-high 22 points for Korea but her efforts were in vain in helping her team secure a place in the final.
“In the first two sets, my girls did not play well. They were not good at blocking and receiving. They have to improve markedly and play much better in the next game,” said China’s head coach Xu Jiande.
With good defense to transport a steady flow of ammunition for spikers to attack, reigning champions Japan overwhelmed Thailand 3-0 (25-8, 25-12, 25-19) in the semi-finals to advance to the final by not dropping a set to their respective rivals.
Japan scored 41 points through their powerful spikes and additional seven from ace serves compared to 21 spikes and no ace serves from Thailand.
Going down in the first two sets, Thailand did their best in the third set to keep up with Japan until 17-19. Nonetheless, Japan played consistently and never looked back since then. They allowed the tough opponents only two more points to capture the set 25-19, match and a final clash.
“In the third set, the scores were very close because Thailand’s attacks lived up to their expectation,” said Daichi Saegusa, head coach of Japan.
Yuri Takayanagi led Japan with a match-high 15 points, followed by Haruna Soga with 13 points. Chularak Nuanboribun contributed only nine points to Thailand.
In the other two encounters, Oceania neighbours Australia and New Zealand went down to Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong respectively, with the former committing up to 37 errors, which yielded themselves 0-3 (14-25, 15-25, 17-25) in 63 minutes.
“For these girls, experience is more important. The substitutions all had a chance to play except Wu Fengyu because she was too tired these days. After all, these girls are so young, so their health is also important,” said Chinese Taipei’s head coach Kuang Chintu.
“Chinese Taipei performed quite well. We were a little disappointed that we could not control the ball well against them,” said Australia’s head coach Boris Georgieff.
Captain Yick Wingsum had another prolific scoring portfolio with 24 points to help Hong Kong take a 3-1 (23-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-14) triumph over New Zealand.
“My girls were a little tired as they were losing their physical strength. In the second and fourth sets, we tried our best and concentrated on the game we were playing. It’s pity we did not perform well at receiving and serving. We need to improve this technique,” said Hong Kong’s head coach Mak Tsz Shun.
The 11th Asian Girls’ U18 Volleyball Championship continue its final phase on Monday at Chongqing No. 8 Secondary School Gymnasium, with China pitted against Japan in their sixth final together. In the previous five finals contested among them, China claimed two wins and Japan three.
Thailand and Korea will battle it out for the third place. Hong Kong will fight for the fifth position in a playoff match against Chinese Taipei, with New Zealand and Australia setting up an all-Oceanians battle in the eighth-place playoff.