Seoul, Korea, August 18, 2019 – Strong teams powered past their respective rivals on the first day of the 20th Asian Senior Women’s Volleyball Championship, with Korea delighting a large crowd, estimated at 3,350, of cheering home fans at the Jamsil Indoor Stadium with a 3-0 rout of Iran and Thailand overcoming a strong challenge from Chinese Taipei to beat the spirited opponents in thrilling four-setter.

Thirteen teams are competing in the August 18-25 Championship, vying for the Asian crown, but more importantly, top eight teams from this top-tier eight-day competition, except Tokyo 2020 hosts Japan and already qualified China, will make the cut for the Continental Olympic Qualification Tournament in early January.

In the Sunday’s opening Pool B match at Jamsil Indoor Stadium, Australia, strengthened by an impressive quartet of Jaimee-Lee Morrow, Jennifer Sadler, Monique Stojanovic and Agnieszka Kudziela, fought hard against Kazakhstan, but found the rivals a tough nut to crack. Despite putting up a brave fight, Australia went down in straight sets 19-25 20-25 21-25.

Kristina Belova chipped in with 12 points for Kazakhstan, while Zhanna Syroyeshkina kept good company to add 10 points. Natalia Sharshakova also handed the team 8 points including a team-leading 5 blocks. Monique Stojanovic led Australia with 10 points, while Morrow, Sadler and Kudziela scored 9 points apiece.

Kazakhstan, 7th place at the previous edition in the Philippines, will next take on reigning champions Japan on Monday, while Australia, finishing 10th in the Philippines, are due to play India.

Hosts Korea, chasing dreams of winning their unprecedented Asian title at home, also registered their first win on Sunday following their convincing straight-set victory over Iran in Pool A. Super star spiker Kim Yeonkoung led the host side to a sensational 25-17 win in the first set as she allowed team-mates to seal the deal in the remaining two sets 25-9 25-14.

Kim Heejin led Korea with 11 points including 9 attacks from 18 attempts, while no one scored in double figures for Iran. Veteran Esfahani Medeh Borhani and Mahsa Kadkhoda similarly topscored with 7 points for the Iranian side.

Korea, bronze medallists at the previous episode two years ago, have yet claimed the Asian crown since the Championship inception in 1975 in Australia. Since the country is hosting the prestigious competition for the first time in history, Korea have their sights firmly set on landing the maiden title at home.

With only three teams competing in Pool A, Korea will contest their last preliminary match against Hong Kong China on Monday, while Iran will have a rest day before next competing against Hong Kong China on Tuesday.

In Pool C, Thailand, silver medallists at the previous edition and at the last year’s Asian Games in Indonesia, shrugged off their poor start to beat fast-improving Chinese Taipei in thrilling four-setter 20-25 25-13 25-22 25-10.

Onuma Sittirak scored a match-high 23 points for Thailand, while talented Chatchu-On Moksri contributed 16 points including 15 attacks. Chen Tsu-Ya led Chinese Taipei with 17 points.

Thailand, spearheaded by veterans who played in the squad which won the Asian title in 2009 and 2013 including Pleumjit Thinkaow, Nootsara Tomkom, Onuma Sittirak, Malika Kanthong and Wilavan Apinyapong, will next take on New Zealand on Tuesday, while Chinese Taipei will be pitted against the Kiwis on Monday.

Meanwhile, title-holders Japan, fielding a strong U20 squad which reigned supreme over the last month’s FIVB Women’s U20 World Championship in Mexico, proved too strong for India to dispose of the rivals in a totally one-sided affair 25-12 25-14 25-8 in just 59 minutes in their opening Pool B match at the Jamsil Students’ Gymnasium.

Miwako Osanai chipped in with 19 points from 15 attacks, one block and a team-leading 3 aces for Japan, while Soorya S, Nirmala and Minimol Abraham scored 4 points apiece for India. Japan will next challenge Kazakhstan on Monday, with the Indians going up against Australia.

China, which sent their second-string squad to the previous edition in the Philippines to return with a disappointing 4th place, also made their mark on the first day following their easy straight-set 25-11 25-9 25-12 win in Pool D clash against Sri Lanka.

Wang Yizhu scored a team-high 10 points for China including 9 attacks from 21 attempts,while Dharmatissa E.D.W. led Sri Lanka with 7 points from 6 attacks and one ace.

The pool round-robin preliminaries continue on Monday, the second day of the 20th edition in Seoul, Korea. After Day 3 on Tuesday, teams will be ranked respectively in their pools, with only the top two teams from each pool advancing to the round of the top 8 teams. Teams finishing third and fourth places will be relegated to the classification round for 9th-13th places.

At the 19th Asian meet two years ago in the Philippines, Japan recovered from the first two-set down to beat Thailand 3-2 in the final clash for their fourth Asian title, while Korea stormed past young China to claim bronze medal.

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