Serbia outblocked Thailand 18 to 1 as they swept the Asian rivals aside in hard-fought straight sets in their second Week 2 match in the 2021 FIVB Women’s Volleyball Nations League in Rimini, Italy on Tuesday.

Thailand made a confident start in the first set, with veterans Onuma Sittirak and Pleumjit Thinkaow in particular on good form to help the team narrow the margin 17-19. However, Serbia utilised their height advantage to block solidly, while captain Katarina Lazovic was immense for the team at the net, repelling wave after wave of Serbia’s attacks. As Thailand tried to claw their way back into the set, Serbia took a commanding 24-19 lead before Lazovic nailed a crucial spike for the team’s first set win 25-19.

Thailand tightened their defence in the second set and came up with combination attacks. Stellar serving and fast spikes from Pleumjit and Onuma’s aggressive attacks fuelled a momentum swing as the Asian side showed tremendous courage and defensive resilience, pulling their game together to catch the rivals 22-22. However, Serbia allowed Thailand only one more point from Onuma’s attack to clinch the close set 25-23.

With backs against the wall, Thailand had nothing to lose in the third set, but fought it all-out. Levelling 12-12, both sides continued their superb form. As Onuma chipped in with a few big spikes, Sara Caric and Jovana Kocic were defending brilliantly, blocking almost everything the rivals could throw at them to help stretch the Serbia’s lead to 18-15. However, Thailand hit back bravely to close the margin 23-all, but the much taller Serbia stormed on their aggression to eventually win the set 25-23 and match.

Captain Katarina Lazovic and Sara Caric similarly scored a match-high 14 points for Serbia. Onuma Sittirak led Thailand with 13 points including 12 attacks, while Pleumjit Thinkaow added 8.

Thailand’s setter Nootsara Tomkom said at the virtual mixed zone: “Today we played much better than in previous matches. Serbia is a young and very strong team, but we really enjoyed this game. Tomorrow is a big match, we will play against the USA, so we have to improve all our skills to show our best.”

Serbia’s captain Katarina Lazovic said: “We won this match after a very difficult game yesterday. It’s important that we grew up after losing to the USA. Eighteen blocks in one game is not something that happens every day, so I’m very proud of my girls, because we enjoyed it, and in my opinion, it’s very important. Because we are young and when we enjoy it, we can prove our strength in the best way. Everybody knows that Thailand is a demanding team, because they play difficult and different volleyball with many combinations, so you cannot lose concentration.”

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