Photos courtesy of Thailand Volleyball Association
Bangkok, Thailand, February 28, 2021 – Defending men’s and women’s champions Nakhon Ratchasima The Mall’s VC and Supreme Chonburi E-Tech emerged as the first-leg winners in the Thailand Volleyball League 2020-2021 season, with the former producing a magnificent comeback win over hot-favourites Diamond Food VC at Nimibutr Gymnasium on Saturday.
Eight teams in both men’s and women’s categories contested their last match of the first leg of the Thailand’s top-flight professional volleyball league this weekend (February 27 and February 28).
Only top six teams apiece from both categories made the cut for the second leg, leaving only two teams at the bottom of the standings to be relegated to the Pro Challenge and replaced by the two promoted sides in the next season. In the second leg, the qualified six teams will play a single round-robin, with only top four teams from each category advancing to the Final Four.
In the men’s event, Nakhon Ratchasima The Mall’s VC and Diamond Food VC set up a clash of the Titans on Saturday as both sides remained unbeaten this season to record identical six straight wins. However, hot-favourites Diamond Food fared better, entering the competition venue with heads held high in great pride on Saturday as they became the only team which have yet lost a single set to their respective rivals. More importantly, the big match between the two powerhouses decided the first-leg winners.
As brilliant Wanchai Tabwises, who took the MVP title in the previous season, and Sri Lankan cannon Janitha Surath spearheaded the defending and six-time champions Nakhon Ratchasima, Diamond Food fielded a strong lineup including former Thailand national spikers Jirayu Raksakaew and Kittikhun Sri-utthawong, current Thailand national players Kantapat Koonmee and Kissada Nilsawai, and Brazil imports Luiz Perotto and Andre Luiz Queiroz Franca.
It was the most intense game of the first leg, which thrilled fans restricted to 30 percent of seating capacity allowed back into the sports venue and those watching the match live via online streaming.
Against the star-studded Diamond Food, Nakhon Ratchasima The Mall’s VC went down in the first set 18-25, but regained their composure to take the next closely-contested two sets 31-29 and 25-22. However, gutsy Diamond Food hit back to win the fourth set 25-23 for a 2-2 tie and force a decider. In the do-or-die tiebreaker, Nakhon Ratchasima’s resilience was showcased through their spectacular attacks and Wanchai’s power boosted the team as they eventually edged out the tough opponents 15-13 for the match and the first-leg victory.
Earlier, Phitsanulok VC, which clinched the Thailand League title in the 2015-2016 season, pulled off a dramatic 3-1 (25-19, 25-20, 23-25, 25-18) win over Visakha in their last encounter of the first leg.
Air Force VC and Mor Asia Koh Kood Cabana had a field day on Sunday as the former powered past Kasetsart VC in straight sets 25-18, 25-23, 25-20 and the latter downed Prince VC in thrilling three-setter 25-22, 25-21, 25-17.
Reigning champions Nakhon Ratchasima The Mall’s VC had 20 points from seven straight wins to capture the first-leg title, while closest rivals Diamond Food VC finished second with 19 points from 6 wins against one loss. Air Force VC (5-2), Phitsanulok (4-3), Mor Asia Koh Kood Cabana (3-4) and Prince VC (2-5) came in respective third, fourth, fifth and sixth places.
Visakha bagged 4 points from one win against 6 losses to finish 7th position, with winless Kasetsart VC on the bottom of the standings with no point. Both teams had been relegated to Pro Challenge next season.
Meanwhile, in the women’s event, defending and three-time champions Supreme Chonburi E-Tech surged ahead overnight leaders Nakhon Ratchasima The Mall’s VC to capture the top spot in the first-leg competition following their scintillating straight-set win against Khonkaen Star VC.
On Saturday, Nakhon Ratchasima, strengthened by sensation Chutchu-on Moksri and tall and powerful Yeliz Basa from Turkey, showed their superb net play and impregnable wall to stun Diamond Food VC, strong with the likes of ace spiker Onuma Sittirak, Malika Kanthong and gifted Sasipaporn Chanthasoot, in surprise straight sets 25-23, 25-18, 25-23.
With the stunning victory, Nakhon Ratchasima temporarily went atop the standing with 17 points from 6 wins against one loss. However, their great joy did not last that long as Supreme, collecting 16 points ahead of their last match on Sunday, cruised to a convincing 25-21, 25-17, 25-16 win against Khonkaen Star VC to run away with the first-leg title.
The other two matches saw 3BB Nakornnont outclass Proflex VC in straight sets 25-12, 25-18, 25-22 on Saturday and RSU VC beat Samut Prakan in four-setter 25-8, 27-29, 25-18, 25-16 the following day.
Supreme Chonburi E-Tech claimed the first-leg title with 19 points from 6 wins against one loss, while Nakhon Ratchasima The Mall’s VC came in second place with 17 points from 6 wins against one loss. Diamond Food VC finished third with 15 points from 5 wins against 2 losses.
Khonkaen Star VC (4-3), 3BB Nakornnont (4-3) and Proflex VC (2-5) came in fourth, fifth and sixth places respectively. RSU VC (1-6) and winless Samut Prakan VC finished 7th and 8th positions to be relegated to Pro Challenge next season.
Saturday, February 27
Phitsanulok b Visakha 3-1 (25-19 25-20 23-25 25-18)
Nakhon Ratchasima b Diamond Food 3-2 (18-25 31-29 25-22 23-25 15-13)
Sunday, February 28
Air Force b Kasetsart 3-0 (25-18 25-23 25-20)
Mor Asia Koh Kood Cabana b Prince 3-0 (25-22 25-21 25-17)
1. Nakhon Ratchasima The Mall’s VC 20 points (7 wins/0 loss)
2. Diamond Food 19 (6-1)
3. Air Force 12 (5-2)
4. Phitsanulok 12 (4-3)
5. Prince 7 (2-5)
6. Mor Asia Koh Kood Cabana 9 (3-4)
7. Visakha 4 (1-6)
8. Kasetsart 0 (0-7)
Saturday, February 27
3BB Nakornnont b Proflex VC 3-0 (25-12 25-18 25-22)
Nakhon Ratchasima The Mall’s VC b Diamond Food VC 3-0 (25-23 25-18 25-23)
Sunday, February 28
RSU VC b Samut Prakan VC 3-1 (25-8, 27-29, 25-18, 25-16)
Supreme Chonburi E-Tech b Khonkaen Star VC 3-0 (25-21, 25-17, 25-16)
1. Supreme 19 points (6 wins/1 loss)
2. Nakhon Ratchasima The Mall’s VC 17 (6-1)
3. Diamond Food 15 (5-2)
4. Khonkaen Star 12 (4-3)
5. 3BB Nakornnont 12 (4-3)
6. Proflex 5 (2-5)
7. RSU 4 (1-6)
8. Samut Prakan 0 (0-7)
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