Photos courtesy of Vietcontent

Japan’s PFU BlueCats sealed dramatic win against U20 Vietnam to extend their winning streak in the 14th VTV9-Binh Dien Cup International Women’s Volleyball Tournament at Buon Ma Thuot City Gym in Dak Lak Province, Vietnam on Tuesday, as Binh Chung Thong Tin Truong Tuoi Binh Phuoc ended the unbeaten run of LPBank Ninh Binh.

On the last day of the pool round-robin preliminaries, PFU struggled to beat U20 Vietnam in hard-fought four-setter 25-22, 22-25, 25-23, 25-13 to top Pool A and become the only team not to concede a match, while Ninh Binh succumbed to 1-3 (25-27, 23-25, 25-15, 22-25) loss to BCTT TT Binh Phuoc, but still captured the top spot in Pool B.

PFU, winners at the Kurowashi Tournament in 2022/23 season, have already secured their berth in the semifinals after respectively beating VTV Binh Dien Long An 3-1 and HCDG Lao Cai 3-0 to bag a total of 6 points from the first two days and on Monday, VTV Binh Dien Long An survived a scare from HCDG Lao Cai to beat the younger compatriots 3-2 to complete their pool preliminaries in respective second and third places in Pool A with 4 points apiece.

In their last preliminary encounter against the losing-streak U20 Vietnam, PFU BlueCats, with two key players Cuban-born Melissa Valdes and Kisa Okuma on the sidelines, faced a stiff challenge from the young Vietnamese, powered by outside hitters Bui Thi Anh Thao and  Dang Thi Hong. However, PFU bounced back, with middle blocker Aya Hosonuma carrying out lightning fast spikes and Reina Kawasaki and Kiiro Omura attacking devastatingly at the net, to narrowly beat U20 Vietnam 25-22 in the close first set.

After conceding one set, U20 Vietnam pulled their game together and started to produce the goods, with Bui Thi Anh Thao and Dang Thi Hong puncturing the Japanese defence with their attacks to help the home side take the second set with the same margin 25-22.


The third set was the similar script as embattled PFU found the young Vietnamese a tough nut to crack. However, the Japanese still had enough to hold their rivals off in the home stretch to clinch the tightly-contested set 25-13.

The fourth set was one-way traffic as the Japanese came up with a perfectly fast-paced game and beautiful back-row attacks to capture the comfortable set 25-13 and match.

Both sides had three players apiece reaching double digits in scoring, with Aya Hosomuma scoring a match-high 18 points from 13 kills, 2 blocks and 3 aces for PFU. Reina Kawasaki and Kiiro Omura kept good company to contribute 17 and 13 points respectively. Bui Thi Anh Thao was the most productive player of U20 Vietnam to score 15 points including 14 attacks. Dang Thi Hong and Le Thuy Linh added 13 and 12 points respectively on the loss.

In Pool B, U20 Thailand, which suffered their first loss to LPBank Ninh Binh on Monday, fielded formidable lineup including Warisara Seetaloed, Papatchaya Phontham, Tanyaporn Seeso and Phattharawadee Khamuan, but found defending champions Sichuan from China too hot to handle to go down in thrilling four-setter 18-25, 26-24, 19-25, 23-25. 

Actually, the Thai team had a chance to win the fourth set and force the tie-breaker to decide the eventual winners. However, they just let the chance slip through their fingers. U20 Thailand made a strong start and led by a wide margin 17-12. Sichuan gradually clawed their way back, with Miao Yiwen and Yuan Guo on fire to come up with powerful cross-court spikes to catch the Thais at 19-19 and cruised on to win the crucial set 25-23. 

Skipper Miao Yiwen delivered 22 points from 16 kills, 4 blocks and 2 aces for Sichuan, while Yuan Guo and Wen Menghan respectively added 17 and 13 points. Warisara Seetaloed led U20 Thailand with 16 points, all from her powerful attacks.

Sichuan dominated the blocking game, getting 16 stuffs to U20 Thailand’s 6 and also did a very good job of leading their opponents in aces (6 to 2) apart from benefiting from more opponent errors (24 to 11). The Thai team fared better in kills (67 to 53).

Another Pool B clash saw BCTT TTT Binh Phuoc manage a 3-1 (27-25, 25-23, 15-25, 25-22) shutout of LPBank Ninh Binh.

Vi Thi Nhu Quynh chipped in with 18 points from 17 kills and one block, with Hoang Thi Kieu Trinh adding another 17 points. Hard-hitting Nguyen Thi Bich Tuyen scored a match-high 24 points including 21 kills and two solid blocks on the Ninh Binh’s loss.

At the end of the pool preliminaries on Tuesday, PFU BlueCats topped Pool A with 9 points from three straight wins. VTV Binh Dien Long An and HCDG Lao Cai had 4 points apiece, but the former had two wins to finish second and the former clinched only one win to come in third position. U20 Vietnam claimed one point from three losses in a row.

LPBank Ninh Binh finished on top of Pool B with 6 points from two wins against one loss. BCTT TT Binh Phuoc had the similar performance and points earned, but Ninh Binh had a better set ratio and as a result, Binh Phuoc finished second in the Pool. Sichuan of China came in third place with 4 points from one win against two losses and U20 Thailand finished fourth with only 2 points from one win against two losses.

With only top two teams from each pool through to the cross semifinals, the lower-ranked sides in both pools were relegated to classification round for 5th-8th places.

Wednesday is the rest day. The competition resumes on Thursday, with (3A) Hoa Chat Duc Giang Lao Cai taking on (4B) U20 Thailand in 5th-8th classification round and (1A) PFU BlueCats challenging (2B) BCTT Truong Tuoi Binh Phuoc in the first semifinal clash.




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