Chongqing, China, March 13, 2017 – Reigning champions Japan put it past fighting China in straight sets 25-16 25-9 32-30 to stretch their aura of invincibility to seven times including six in a row at the “SMM” 11th Asian Girls’ U18 Volleyball Championship at the Chongqing No.8 Secondary School Gymnasium on Monday.
The first set saw Japan gain the upper hand from the very beginning of the game and shortly after that rolled on their strong performance, putting much pressure on the young Chinese girls. The formidable visitors still led all the way from 8-4 at the first technical timeout to 16-10 at the second. Japan persevered to emerge with a convincing 25-16 win.
In the second set, the Japanese continued to pose difficulties for their opponents to commit unforced errors one after another. Eventually Japan cruised to a 25-9 win in a totally lop-sided battle.
China tried to put the match back on the right track for their last chance in the third set. The host side seized the home advantage to capture a narrow 8-6 lead at the first technical timeout and stretch it to a four-point gap.
Japan made amends to tie the score, but China still controlled the game well to lead 16-14. With some ace serves and scintillating blocks, Japan reversed the situation and forged ahead the rivals 20-18.
The set featured a handful of exciting rallies and amazing digs which thrilled the audience packing the venue on Monday. Both teams traded points and the leads changed hands for several times until the score was tied at 30-30. Japan showed more aggressiveness in spiking without any hesitation, highlighting 44 points from 113 spikes compared to 28 points from 100 of China. Japan advanced 31-30, needing a vital point to end the hosts’ determined challenge. and Yuki Nishikawa hit a devastating spike to help the Japanese take the hard-fought set 32-30, match and the championship.
Talented Yuki Nishikawa scored a match-high 19 points for Japan. Showing her excellent form. Nishikawa won the Most Valuable Player and the Best Outside Spiker during the awards presentation. Soga Haruna added with 17 points, while Sun Xiaoxuan led China with 12 points.
“It seemed like an easy game but it was not actually. The height of Chinese players has caused too much pressure to us. We tried to get points from serving,” said Japan’s head coach Daichi Saegusa. Japan remarkably outscored China 11-0 in serving.
With the straight-set win, Japan made it seven in the biennial tournament including six in a row. In their six finals against China in the Asian Girls’ 18 Championship, the Japanese claimed four wins and China only two.
In the bronze-medal match earlier, Korea dashed Thai hopes of finishing top three in the tournament after powering past Thailand in straight sets 25-17, 25-17, 28-26.
The first two sets saw Korea take comfortable wins similarly 25-17, 25-17, while in the third set, another momentum shifted early and Thailand led 16-11 at the second technical timeout. Thailand, silver medallists at the previous edition on home soil in Nakhon Ratchasima in 2014, controlled their game marvellously and took advantage of a few unforced errors by Korea.
However, Korea never gave up in this crucial set. They gradually narrowed the margin to tie the score at 20-20. At the near end of the game, Thailand tried their best to tie the score twice and managed to save the match point. But following a faulty attack from Thailand, Korea ended the see-saw set 28-26 and match.
In the 5th-6th place playoff, Chinese Taipei pulled off a 3-1 (25-15, 16-25, 25-22, 25-23) win over Hong Kong to take the fifth place.
“Our best result was in the top 8, so I’m very pleased with this result.” Hong Kong’s head coach Mak Tsz Shun expressed his satisfaction over the final ranking of the sixth place Hong Kong had taken in the tournament.
“We win the match in a very close score. Our psychological state was not that good,” said Chinese Taipei’s head coach Kuang Chintu, “I think it is of vital importance to learn something from this game to avoid the same mistake in the near future. We are not pleased with our top 5 finish as we had targeted the top four.
Australia saw off their Oceania neighbour New Zealand in straight sets 25-20, 25-19, 25-18 earlier to finish seventh place. Manihera Double led New Zealand with a match-high 14 points but Australia had more firepower configuration highlighting similar 10 points from Coleman Aimee and Tipping Caitlin.
“New Zealand fought back and they want to win the game as we do. Our girls focus on the task, getting a good pass, a good set and a good attack. We were confident if we control the ball well that we would get the point and get pass themselves. The girls show good characters to overcome and get pass New Zealand. New Zealand played very well. We know it would be a hard match and it really was. Today we are a little bit better.” said Australia’s head coach Boris Georgieff.
Japan, China, Korea and Thailand qualified for the 2017 FIVB Volleyball Girls’ U18 World Championship from August 18 to 27 in Argentina.
FINAL TEAM RANKINGS
1. Japan……qualified for 2017 FIVB Girls’ U18 World Championship in Argentina
5. Chinese Taipei
6. Hong Kong
8. New Zealand
Best setter: Zhang Zhihan (China)
Best outside spikers: Park Hyemin (Korea), Yuki Nishikawa (Japan)
Best middle blockers: Mao Junyi (China), Lee Juah (Korea)
Best libero: Rena Mizusugi (Japan)
Best opposite spiker: Sun Xiaoxuan (China)
MVP: Yuki Nishikawa (Japan)