Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, May 21, 2017 – Formidable Japan produced a fantastic comeback 3-2 (20-25 16-25 25-19 27-25 15-12) victory over determined Thailand in a hard-fought final showdown to underline their supremacy over the SMM 2nd Asian Women’s U23 Volleyball Championship at the packed The Mall Nakhon Ratchasima’s MCC Hall on Sunday.
Both Thailand and Japan have already clinched two slots to contest the 2017 FIVB Volleyball Women’s U23 World Championship in Slovenia from September 10 to 17 following their Saturday’s wins in the semi-finals against Vietnam and Chinese Taipei respectively.
In what could be the semi-final rematch of the previous edition in the Philippines two years ago, Thailand, which finished runners-up to eventual winners China in the 2015 edition, came up much stronger in the Sunday’s final clash against Japan, with over 3,500 home fans boosting their team’s morale.
World No.8 Thailand took the first two sets 25-20 25-16, thanks to their impenetrable defence and Ajcharaporn Kongyot’s deadly spikes. However, Japan, fourth place at both the Asian meet in 2015 and the World Championship in Turkey the same year, roared back to win the following two sets 25-19 27-25.
In the thrilling decider, Japan fared better to capture the set 15-12 and the championship. For Japan, it was a sweet revenge against Thailand as the Thais beat them 3-2 in the semi-finals at the previous episode
“It was a very difficult match as we expected. Thailand played extremely well in the first two sets while we made too many errors especially on our service. Thailand are very strong on their side-out attacks and they adapted well to our game plan. Then we tried to adapt our system in the next two sets by fielding our players from the bench to the court and they played very well. We trained together for two weeks before this championship. I am very happy that we finally won this tournament. For our preparation to the World Championship, in this match our players made a lot of mistakes, so we have to adjust and change something to our players before participating in the world meet,” Japan’s head coach Kiyoshi Abo commented after the final match.
Debutantes Vietnam pulled off a stunning straight-set 25-20 25-19 25-19 victory over Chinese Taipei in the 3rd-4th playoff match to claim the historic third place.
Vietnam have never claimed a top-three finish at any Asian competitions. The Vietnam national senior women’s team finished fifth at the 2015 Asian Senior Women’s Championship in Tianjin, China, while their women’s U19 team came within a whisker of taking bronze at the 2016 Asian Women’s U19 Championship, only going down to hosts Thailand 1-3 in the third-place playoff.
With the convincing victory, the Vietnamese players danced around, hugged each other and were in happy tears. Vietnam did not take part in the previous edition two years ago in the Philippines, where China were crowned champions after beating Thailand 3-1 in the final showdown.
Meanwhile, Kazakhstan proved too strong for Hong Kong to thrash the smaller-built opponents with a comprehensive straight-set 25-17, 25-13, 25-15 win to finish fifth place, leaving Hong Kong to return with the 6th position.
The 7th-8th playoff encounter saw powerful Low Mei Cing, who scored a team-high 30 points including 27 kills in this match, steer Malaysia to a hard-fought 3-2 (25-23, 22-25, 25-23, 22-25, 15-13) victory over Iran.
7th-8th playoff: Malaysia b Iran 3-2 (25-23 22-25 25-23 22-25 15-13)
5th-6th playoff: Kazakhstan b Hong Kong 3-0 (25-17 25-13 25-15)
Third-place playoff: Vietnam b Chinese Taipei 3-0 (25-20 25-19 25-19)
Championship match: Japan b Thailand 3-2 (20-25 16-25 25-19 27-25 15-12)
FINAL TEAM RANKINGS
1. Japan – qualified for 2017 World Championship
2. Thailand – qualified for 2017 World Championship
4. Chinese Taipei
6. Hong Kong
11. New Zealand
12. Sri Lanka
Best Outside Spikers
1. Chatchu-on Moksri (No.19 Thailand)
2. Tran Thi Thanh Thuy (No.3 Vietnam)
Miki Sakurai (No.8 Japan)
Best Opposite Spiker
Pimpichaya Kokram (No.12 Thailand)
Best Middle Blockers
1. Ayaka Sugi (No.3 Japan)
2. Hathairat Jarat (No.4 Thailand)
Lai Xiang-Chen (No.1 Chinese Taipei)
Most Valuable Player
Misaki Yamauchi (No.1 Japan)
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