Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, June 13, 2022 – Japan stamped their domination over the 14th Asian Women’s U18 Volleyball Championship after an epic tie-breaker win 19-25, 26-28, 25-21, 25-17, 15-13 against China in the thrilling final showdown at Nakhon Pathom Sports Center Gymnasium on Monday.
Since the tournament’s inception in 1997, Japan and China became the only two teams to stamp their supremacy over this age group championship, with the former taking 8 titles and the latter 4. Ahead of the 2022 showdown, Japan and China had already set up final clash for seven times in history which saw Japan overpower China in five episodes (2008, 2010, 2012, 2017, and 2018) and China sealed only two in 1999 and 2001.
Japan entered the final showdown as the only unbeaten team without losing a single set to their respective rivals, while China suffered their single loss at the hands of Japan in the pool plays.
Against the reigning champions, China started strongly, fielding several individual talents including Chen Xiyue and Wan Yindi. Unlike China, the Japanese side got their title defence in the final showdown off to a losing start with 19-25 letdown in the first set.
China continued their brilliance to take the hard-fought second set 28-26, thanks to their impenetrable defence and Wang Yindi‘s destructive attacks, defying against all odds that they were likely to end their 17-year gold-medal drought this time with a possible straight-set win against Japan. However, Japan proved them wrong.
Going down two sets, the Japanese made a strong comeback in the third set. Their resilience was showcased through spectacular blocking from Riri Kasai and Sae Omori, while some powerful spikes moments later by Yuzuki Baba, who overcame the taller Chinese blockers with her aggressive spikes, became the team’s major force to be reckoned with. With Thai fans cheering them all the way, Japan grabbed the third set 25-21.
The fourth set was initially dominated by the Japanese, while the Chinese nerves began to fray and could not cope with the rivals’ tactics. Japan took the set 25-17, forcing the tie-breaker to determine the eventual champions in this tough-looking showdown.
The decider turned a tight contest, with both sides pouring everything they had to win the set, match and the Asian title. Japan still played every part of the game well and fared a bit better, refraining from making hasty unforced mistakes, to eventually capture the hotly-contested set 15-13 and the championship.
Riri Kasai and Sae Omori became the Japan’s stars in the showdown as they apiece scored a team-high 23 points for Japan, while powerful attacker Chen Xiyue scored a match-high 24 points on the China’s losing efforts.
At the previous edition in Nakhon Pathom in 2018, Japan beat China 3-1 in the final showdown to reign supreme. This time, the Japanese captured the title with remarkable unbeaten records, beating China two in succession comprising the straight-set win in pool plays earlier and a comeback 3-2 win in the showdown.
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