Photos courtesy of Vietcontent

Japan’s PFU BlueCats, steered by Cuban-born Melissa Valdes, 185cm, continued their winning ways in the 14th VTV9-Binh Dien Cup International Women’s Volleyball Tournament after convincing straight-set win against HCDG Lao Cai at Buon Ma Thuot City Gym in Dak Lak Province, Vietnam on Sunday.

Against HCDG Lao Cai, another strong local team in Pool A, on Sunday, PFU, fresh from delivering a stunning upset 3-1 win against hosts VTV Binh Dien Long An in the Saturday’s curtain-raisers, made a solid start, showcasing their prowess with exceptional attacks from Valdes and Kisa Okuma and efficient blocks from Valdes. HCDG Lao Cai, cheered on by home fans of around 1,500 at the venue, tried to turn the tables on PFU, but the strong Japanese side held firm to take the first set 25-21.

The second set was tightly-contested when HCDG Lao Cai hit back, with Tran Tu Linh and Thai import Kuttika Kaewpin producing sharp attacks and the Japanese side counter-attacking well. Both sides were neck and neck and the score was leveled at 24-24 before PFU scored two points in a row to take the hard-fought set 26-24 for the commanding 2-0 lead.

In the third set, the 20-year-old Okuma, 173cm, and Valdes were on fire as the tandem combined well to puncture the home side’s defence apart with their exceptional attacks. HCDG Lao Cai countered with spikes and blocks, but their attempts did not work well. The visitors established a 22-13 lead and maintained control, allowing the home team one more point to capture the set 25-14 and match.

PFU had three players reaching double digits in scoring, with outside hitter Melissa Valdes leading the way with 25 points (21 kills, 3 blocks, one ace). Fellow outside hitter Kisa Okuma scored 12 points with 11 kills and one block. Aya Hosonuma completed the list with 11 points (9 kills, one block, one ace). Tran Tu Linh led HCDG Lao Cai with 11 points including 9 attacks and one block. Middle blocker Tran Thi Bich Thuy and outside hitter Kuttika Kaewpin added 8 points apiece for the team’s loss.

The other Pool A encounter saw hosts VTV Binh Dien Long An, strengthened by star spiker Tran Thi Thanh Thuy and Chinese import Chen Peiyan, survive a scare from the U20 Vietnam squad to beat the young rivals in tie-breaker 25-15, 18-25, 24-26, 25-17, 15-5.

Chen Peiyan scored a team-high 19 points from 18 kills and one block for VTV Binh Dien Long An, while Nguyen Thi Tra My and Lu Thi Phuong kept good company to contribute 16 and 11 points respectively. Tran Thi Thanh Thuy, resting in the first two sets, claimed only 4 points in this match. Dang Thi Hong and Pham Quynh Huong led the U20 Vietnam squad with 19 points apiece.

The Binh Dien Long An’s dominance in kills (62 to 54) and aces (9 to 1) was pivotal to their victory, with 29 points (29 to 24) earned in opponent errors, while the U20 Vietnam squad had a greater balance in blocks, having the edge by nine to seven.

Earlier, the U20 Thailand team got their campaign in the eight-day tournament off to a brilliant start with an epic tie-break win 25-22, 18-25, 25-23, 17-25, 15-13 against BCTT TT Binh Phuoc in Pool B.

Similar to the U20 Vietnam, the U20 Thailand squad are testing their mettle in this tournament as tune-up matches in their preparation for the 22nd Asian Women’s U20 Volleyball Championship in Jiangmen, China from July 1 to 8, which will serve as the Asia’s qualification tournament for the next year’s FIVB Volleyball Women’s U21 World Championship.

BCTT TT Binh Phuoc fielded many Vietnam national players who played in the gold-medal winning team at the AVC Challenge Cup for Women in Indonesia last year. They comprised Pham Thi Nguyet Anh, Hoang Thi Kieu Trinh, Vi Thi Nhu Quynh and setter Doan Thi Lam Oanh. Also joining the team as one of major forces was Thai import Watchareeya Nuanjam.

It was a see-saw affair as both sides exchanged attacks and good defense. However, neither side was seemingly unable to win two sets in a row. The U20 Thailand took the close first set 25-22, but the home side fought back hard to win the second set 25-18.


The Thai side struggled hard in the third set, but still proved a bit steadier to clinch the nail-biting set 25-23 before BCTT TT Binh Phuoc regained their pride to win the crucial fourth set 25-17, forcing the tie-breaker to decide the eventual winners.

The competition intensified in the decisive fifth set as both sides traded points until the U20 Thailand led commandingly 14-12, needing only one more point to wrap up the set. The Vietnamese team did not want to surrender and bounced back, with Pham Thi Nguyet Anh saving the day for BCTT TT Binh Phuoc with her powerful attack. However, the Vietnamese delight did not last long as Warisara Seetaloed fired a mighty attack which went unanswered, allowing the U20 Thailand to jump for joy and the exhausting 3-2 win.

Warisara Seetaloed and Papatchaya Phontham chipped in with 22 points apiece for U20 Thailand, both similarly scoring 21 kills and one ace, while Tanyaporn Seeso added another 21 points including 18 kills and two solid blocks. Hoang Thi Kieu Trinh led BCTT TT Binh Phuoc with 16 points including 14 kills.

On Monday, defending champions Sichuan from China, which succumbed to straight-set loss to LPBank Ninh Binh in their first match on Saturday, will take on BCTT TT Binh Phuoc and the U20 Thailand squad will go up against LPBank Ninh Binh in Pool B, while HCDG Lao Cai will challenge hosts VTV Binh Dien Long An in Pool A.




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