Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, September 5, 2023 – Hosts Thailand caused a major upset at the 22nd Asian Senior Women’s Volleyball Championship after dramatic 3-2 (25-23, 19-25, 20-25, 25-20, 15-11) win against defending and consecutive two-time champions Japan in the highly-anticipated semifinals at Chartchai Hall to next face off against powerhouses China in the final clash of the two unbeaten teams.
Star spiker Chatchu-On Moksri delivered 20 points from 19 attacks and one ace for Thailand, while outside hitter Ajcharaporn Kongyot and middle blocker Thatdao Nuekjang added another 18 and 11 points respectively. Outside hitter Miwako Osanai chipped in with 18 points including 16 attacks for Japan, while Yuki Nishikawa and Haruyo Shimamura kept good company to add respective 17 and 16 points.
Thailand, boosted by a large number of cheering home fans inside the competition venue, got off to an aggressive start, with Ajcharaporn Kongyot and middle blocker Hattaya Bamrungsuk puncturing the Japanese defence with their exceptional attacks to put the Thais in front 12-8.
Japan, fielding two outside hitters Miwako Osanai and Miyu Nakagawa, both of whom joined the team which captured gold medal at the previous edition of the Asian Championship in Korea in 2019 (the 21st edition in 2021 in Philippines was cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic), bounced back to catch up with the host side at 14-14 and 21-21.
As Thailand reached the set point at 24-23 after Hattaya slammed a first-tempo attack, Chatchu-On hammered a powerful hit to stop the strong visitors’ challenge in the hard-fought first set 25-23.
Conceding one set, Japan regrouped and counter-attacked to race to a 5-2 lead in the second set. Thanacha Sooksod produced some devastating attacks to give Thailand a comeback to level it at 10-10. However, Japan maintained a margin that varied anyway from one to three points for a while with their powerful attacks making the difference. The Japanese gradually broke away with Miyu Nakagawa and Yuki Nishikawa methodically tearing the Thai defence apart with their aggressive spikes to move their team ahead 23-19. Thailand were looking to bring back another challenge in this set, but their attempts at a comeback were denied. Japan took the thrilling set 25-19.
Both teams went on their near-flawless form in the third set and a fierce battle unfolded with the lead going back and forth in the beginning of the set. Leveling 16-16, Japan started to produce the goods and piled up a 22-20 lead and maintained their momentum from that point to wrap up the set 25-20 for a 2-1 advantage.
The fourth set was more competitive, with both teams pouring everything they had to win the intense battle. Thailand lived up to fans’ expectation when they took an early 16-12 lead. Japan stormed back with attacks, but the host side blunted their attempted challenge. Leading 22-19, Thailand continued their brilliant form to win the exciting set 25-20 to force a tie-breaker.
Thailand started the decider better to lead at halfway 8-6 and from then never allowed the Japanese any chance to comeback to capture the set 15-11, match and the final showdown.
“We worked hard in our preparation for this difficult match against Japan, but our efforts worked out pretty well today. However, another tough test awaits us in the final when we will take on China, one of the strongest teams in this championship. They are very tall with high blocking, while their attacks and serves are very difficult to cope with. To play them effectively, we have to play more carefully with the possible least mistakes. I hope my team will do their best in their final match,” Thailand head coach Danai Sriwacharamaytakul commented before a large number of the media at the Mixed Zone.
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