Chongqing, China, March 11, 2017 – Thailand knocked Chinese Taipei out of top 4 in a hard-fought three-set battle, while powerhouses Japan, China and Korea all claimed comfortable wins over Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong respectively at the quarter-finals of the “SMM” 11th Asian Girls’ U18 Volleyball Championship at Chongqing No. 8 Secondary School Gymnasium.
Winning their quarter-final encounters, defending and six-time champions Japan, Thailand, hosts and former four-time champions China and Korea all qualified for the 2017 FIVB Volleyball Girls’ U18 World Championship in Argentina from August 18 to 27,, pitted against 16 teams from other continents for the most coveted title in their age category.
Title-holders Japan on Saturday wielded their force for a comfortable 3-0 (25-15, 25-11, 25-13) victory over Australia in the first quarter-final match to become the only team not to drop a set to their respective rivals in the top-flight championship.
Japan made use of all 12 players in this match against Australia as they occupied a distinct superiority. Kokomi Osaki led Japan with 12 points including six ace serves.
“I want all 12 players in my team to play in this game, because it is not easy for them to gain experience in this level of the championship.” said Japan’s head coach Daichi Saegusa after the match.
The later match between Thailand and Chinese Taipei was likely to prove one of the highlights of the tournament as although it ended 3-0 (26-24 25-21 25-23) in favour of Thailand, each set contested was so close and the match turned out a see-saw battle, with both sides keeping fans on their feet with their never-say-die attitude.
“We were mainly preparing for the quarter-finals the day before yesterday. We wanted every girl to get fully prepared for this match.” said Chinese Taipei’s head coach Kuang Chintu.
“It turned out that they really had full preparation for this crucial match today as they played with their utmost and led almost all the way in the first two sets. However, Thailand managed to adjust themselves to reverse the situation at the very last moment and captured the first two sets 26-24 and 25-21.
Chinese Taipei put up a desperate fight in the third set as they chased from trailing 4-8 to level Thailand at 13-13. After that, both sides traded points and repeatedly tied the score at 22-22. Thailand again proved their class to score at the final assault as Prapatsorn Kongudom handed the Thailand victory, thanks to her devastating spike after a long rally.
Piyarat Buddawong had another prolific scoring night for Thailand with 20 points including 19 kills. Prapatsorn Kongudom and Usa Daowern followed up with 14 and 12 points respectively, while Wu Fangyu contributed 14 points to Chinese Taipei.
“We had prepared well before this game. The girls tried their best. It’s my fault that I could not adjust their psychological state to the best. Maybe they were too nervous. Anyway, this is a very good experience for them. They now learn how to play the game,” Chinese Taipei head coach Kuang Chintu continued.
“I felt very excited. Our girls played very well and Chinese Taipei did their homework very well too,” said Thailand’s head coach Jarun Niumtuptim.
Meanwhile, New Zealand cheered highly for each point they scored from the average 186cm-tall Chinese, but the host side pushed them to the limit with their aggression and teamwork to win in a totally lop-sided affair 25-13 25-7 25-6.
Sun Ruoqing led China with a match-high 12 points, followed by Xu Luyao and Mao Junyi with similar 11 points. Manihera Double pocketed only five points for New Zealand.
“Our girls came out and played extremely well in the first set. China are a very strong team. My girls did well in the first set. But then they dropped their rhythm and it’s quite hard to bring them back,” said Sam Ryburn, head coach of New Zealand.
In the other match, Hong Kong tried to trouble Korea, but finally failed to make their mark and had to commit their loss to Korea in straight sets 18-25, 7-25, 13-25.
The first set saw Hong Kong get adapted to the match earlier to capture the pole position from the beginning. An error committed by Korea caused a splendid long rally and positioned themselves 12-16 at the second technical timeout. But the Koreans sharpened their swords quickly and reserved the situation to a 19-17 lead following several aggressive serves. A timeout called by Hong Kong could not stop Koreans’ momentum and following a crafty dip, Korea finished the first set convincingly 25-18.
Despite trailing 0-2 in the second set, Korea geared up and surpassed Hong Kong with no mercy, like being equipped with a turbo engine. In 19 minutes, they dashed to a 25-7 win at the end of the second set.
Hong Kong fought back for every point in the third set but Korea brandished their superiority over the rivals as they scored successively from powerful spikes, dips, ace serves and blocks. The Koreans took the last set 25-13 to strode to the semi-finals.
Lee Wonjeong, Jeong Jiyun and Park Hyemin similarly bagged a match-high 11 points for Korea, while Choy Hoiting scored only five points for Hong Kong.
“This was a very good match and we performed well not only in techniques but also in spirit. We do a lot of defense, while Korea relied mostly o their attacks. No matter where the ball went, we kept fighting and defending. I think it was a very good match.” said Mak Tsz Shun, head coach of Hong Kong.
Earlier in the morning, Uzbekistan finally tasted their maiden victory in the championship by sweeping Samoa 25-14, 25-11, 25-21 in their last 9th-11th playoff match. Uzbekistan clinched the 10th place, while winless Samoa finished at the bottom 11th of the championship. Iran finished 9th place as they survived from the thrilling five-setter with Uzbekistan on Wednesday to grab an easy 3-0 (25-17, 25-17, 25-15) win over Samoa on Friday.
The semi-finals of the 11th Asian Girls’ U18 Volleyball Championship continue on Sunday at Chongqing No. 8 Secondary School Gymnasium, with China taking on Korea and Japan setting up a thrilling clash with Thailand. The 5th-8th playoffs see Hong Kong play New Zealand and Australia challenge Chinese Taipei.