Jiangmen, China, July 9, 2024 – After eight-year hiatus, powerhouses China stunned reigning and consecutive two-time champions Japan in epic tie-breaker to underline their supremacy over the 22nd Asian Women’s U20 Volleyball Championship at the Jiangmen Sports Center Gymnasium here on Tuesday.

The hard-fought 3-2 (23-25, 25-21, 25-17, 14-25, 15-10) victory handed China the 13th title in this championship. Since its inception in 1980 in Seoul, where hosts Korea captured  the very first title, China took the lion’s share of 13 titles (1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2024). The Chinese have already faced off against Japan in 13 finals in this Asian Women’s U20 Championship and among their confrontation in the finals, the Chinese clinched eight titles and Japan took the remaining five.

The China’s win was a sweet revenge for their loss two times in succession to Japan in the previous two editions consisting of in 2018 in Bac Ninh, Vietnam, where they lost to Japan in straight sets in the final clash and again in 2022 in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, where they went down in another straight sets  to Japan in the showdown (The 2020 edition was cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic).

Outside hitter Dong Yuhan was the most productive player for China to chip in 20 points from 13 kills, 3 blocks and 4 aces, while fellow outside hitter Li Chenxuan and opposite and skipper Wang Yindi added 16 and 12 points respectively. Outside hitter Miku Akimoto scored a match-high 26 points from 25 kills and one ace on the Japan’s loss. Another two outside hitters Anna Uemura and Sae Omuri contributed 15 and 12 points respectively. 

Against title-holder Japan, China, current U21 world champions and silver medallists at the previous edition two years ago in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, fielded a formidable lineup which powered past Korea 3-1 in the semifinals on Monday including Wang Yindi and the 194cm Shan Linqian, both of them competed in the China U21 squad which captured the world title last year. Japan were spearheaded by sensation Miku Akimoto and the small, but powerful Anna Uemura, 168cm, who landed the Best Outside Hitter and MVP awards in Nur-Sultan.

In the opening set, China made a solid start to take an initial 4-1 lead, but Uemura gave Japan a strong comeback with her exceptional attacks and terrific jump serves which led the team to a 6-6 tie. Outside hitter Miku Akimoto, Sae Omori and Uemura provided most of the ammunition in Japan’s attacks and put the team in front 20-18 before extending it to the set point 24-22. Japan gave China one more point from sub-in Dong Yuhan’s attack before Omori hammered an off-the-block kill for the team’s closely-contested 25-23 win.

In the second set, both sides still locked horns in an intense battle, but China performed exceptionally well in front of a large crowd of home fans inside the gymnasium. After trading attacks in the middle of the set, China moved on, showing their great strength and incredible power at the net to take the 23-20 lead. With outside hitters Li Chenxuan and Dong Yuhan on fire in attack, China took control on the scoreboard, allowing the smaller-built opponents only one more point to win the thrilling set 25-21.

The third set proved a lopsided battle when China continued onslaughts and Japan struggled to hit their form. Taking a commanding 20-14 lead, China stormed on with Li Chenxuan delivering the set point from her deadly spike and repeated that great form with another dazzling cross-court attack for the comfortable 25-17 win.

In the fourth set, Japan bounced back mightily, taking an advantage when China became more prone with unforced attacking mistakes. After opening a 12-point lead at 22-10, Japan found their touch to advance 24-12. China, in an effort of putting their act back together, bagged two more points before the strong visitors wrapped up the one-sided affair 25-14, forcing the tie-breaker to determine the eventual champions.

In the thrilling decider, China entertained the cheering home supporters, with Wang Yindi carrying an ace serve to help the team quickly build up a solid 5-2 lead. Japan asked for timeout to improve their game plan, but the Chinese still kept the upper hand through the rest of the set.

Leading 6-4, China widened it with a six-point clear at 12-4. Miina Inoue handed Japan one more point before Dong Yuhan attacked devastatingly to move the host side closer to the title. However, things turned sour and the cheering home fans became silent. Japan came to life as they scored one point at a time for five points in a row to narrow the margin 13-10. The 194cm-tall Shan Linqian took her height advantage to hammer a fast spike at the net to bring China to the set point 14-10 before Dong Yuhan produced an ace serve to entirely end the Japanese challenge.


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