ZHANG JINGYIN LIFTS CHINA TO COMEBACK WIN AGAINST AUSTRALIA IN AVC CHALLENGE CUP FOR MEN

ZHANG JINGYIN LIFTS CHINA TO COMEBACK WIN AGAINST AUSTRALIA IN AVC CHALLENGE CUP FOR MEN

Isa Town, Bahrain, June 7, 2024 – Star spiker Zhang Jingyin scored a match-high 27 points as China bounced back to beat Australia in hard-fought five-set thriller 21-25, 25-21, 23-25, 25-19, 17-15 to next battle it out with Vietnam for the fifth place in the 2024 AVC Challenge Cup for Men at the Isa Town Sport City Hall 3 here on Friday.

Contesting the Classification Round for 5th-8th places, China, which picked up silver medal at the reschedule Hangzhou Asian Games last year and the winners at the 2022 AVC Cup in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, were relegated from last year’s VNL by virtue of being the bottom-ranked nation in the 16-team field and are attempting to find their way back to the world-class competition. 

As hosts, China are assured of automatically securing a slot in the FIVB Challenger Cup between July 4 and 7 in Linyi, but under the guidance of new head coach Belgian Vital Heynen, the Chinese team are in Bahrain to sharpen their skills and prove their talents against strong teams in this top-tier tournament. Though out of title contention, China proved well they are one of the formidable teams to be reckoned with in the near future.

In the first set, world No.35 Australia, which finished fifth at the previous edition last year in Chinese Taipei, brewed a solid blend of defence and offense orchestrated by opposite Matthew Aubrey and outside hitter Thomas Heptinstall to lead China all the way. An ace service from Heptinstall brought Australia to the set point 24-20, but his service error in his second attempt gave China another breath of air. However, Australia dashed the Chinese hopes of comeback as the hefty 209cm-tall Aubrey hammered a deadly cross-court kill for the Aussies’ 25-21 win.

Conceding one set, China stormed back in the second set, with skipper Jiang Chuan and star spiker Zhang Jingyin overcoming the Australian blockers with exceptional attacks to help the team lead 24-20. China allowed the tall rivals one more point from the left-hander opposite Aubrey’s attack before the 207cm outside hitter Zhang Jingyin fired a thundering mid-court spike to help China clinch the set 25-21.

The next two sets turned out to be see-saw battle, with Australia, led by Aubrey and Ethan Garrett, winning the hard-fought third set 25-23 and Zhang Jingyin, whose playmaking steered his team with 8 points, and opposite Wang Jingyi instrumental in lifting the China’s 25-19 win in the fourth set, forcing the tie-breaker to determine the eventual winners.

In the decisive fifth set, China lost their grip from the beginning to trail behind 1-4 and 4-9, but after that, they started to gain control. As Australia became more prone with service errors, China came back with more aggression to level it at 13-13. An attack from Garrett touched an antenna moved China ahead to the match point 14-13, but the Aussies did not surrender as Garrett made amends with his attack to even it again at 15-15. In a tight contest, Zhang Jingyin put China in advance 17-16 before another spike from Garrett went wide, delighting the rivals. China captured the exciting decider 17-15 and match.

Zhang Jingyin was the most productive player in this match, scoring a match-high 27 points from 22 kills, 3 blocks and 2 aces for China, while Jiang Chuan and Peng Shikun contributed 15 and 10 points respectively. Matthew Aubrey and Ethan Garrett scored 22 points apiece on the Australia’s loss.

China will now face off against world No.52 Vietnam for the 5th place. Vietnam, which finished fourth place at the previous edition in Chinese Taipei, cruised to dramatic 3-1 (25-22, 24-26, 25-21, 25-21) victory against world No.67 Bahrain in another 5th-8th playoff clash on Friday.

Nguyen Ngọc Thuan, who was the Vietnam’s top scorer in their previous matches against Australia, Chinese Taipei and Pakistan, still proved a major force for the team in this tough match against hosts Bahrain.

In a tight first set, Vietnam took a narrow lead 14-13 and maintained their momentum to widen it to 22-20 and 23-22, thanks to the combination attacks from outside hitter Nguyen Ngoc Thuan and opposite Pham Van Hip. A service error from middle blocker Hasan Haider handed the strong visitors the set point at 24-22 and another wrong shot from outside hitter Abdulla Mohamed Yaqoob cost the hosts dear. Vietnam took the set 25-22.

Going down one set, Bahrain, which picked up silver at the last year’s edition, bounced back to take an initial lead with a three-point clear at 9-6 before Vietnam gradually pulled their game together and fought hard to catch them at 17-17 and 20-20.

The on-going battle became more intense with both sides pouring everything to win the set. Bahrain first reached the set point 24-23, but Vietnam did not give up to catch the host side at 24-24. To make short work of the visitors, Bahrain scored two points in a row to capture the hotly-contested set 26-24.

Nguyen Ngọc Thuan gave Vietnam a successful comeback in the third set. The powerful 193cm outside hitter was on fire and his threat on offense proved an unstoppable force in the Vietnam’s lineup. Although Bahrain put up a brave fight against the determined rivals, Vietnam showcased their prowess, with Nguyen Ngoc Thuan unleashing a barrage of powerful attacks to score 10 points for the visitors’ 25-21 win in this set.

Their confidence boosted after leading 2-1, Vietnam remained in top form in the fourth set to take the commanding led with a seven-point advantage at 23-16.  However, the host side showed flashes of brilliance after that to score four points on the trot to narrow the margin 20-23.

Skipper Duong Van Tien handed Vietnam the set point at 24-20, but an explosive attack from outside hitter Ali Sayed Hashem saved the day for Bahrain. The hosts’ delight did not last long as a serve from Abdulla Mohamed Yaqoob went out wide, resulting in 25-21 in favor of Vietnam.

Nguyen Ngọc Thuan chipped in with 19 points including 18 kills from 35 attempts for Vietnam, while Pham Van Hiep contributed 17 points from 13 kills, 3 blocks and one ace. Khamis Ali led Bahrain with 15 points from 14 kills and one ace, while Abudulla Mohamed and Abdulla Mohamed Yaqoob kept good company to add 14 and 10 points respectively.

Meanwhile, the playoff matches earlier saw Thailand claim the 9th place after dramatic 3-1 win against Philippines and Indonesia returned with the 11th position following their 3-0 demolition of Chinese Taipei.

Thailand, whose title defence campaign in this topflight competition became an impossible mission following their loss in the hard-fought five-set thriller against Kazakhstan in Pool B that put them out of title contention, finished 9th place on Friday. The world No.62 overcame a strong challenge from Philippines to beat the world No.61 in close four-setter 25-20, 23-25, 25-22, 25-20 on Friday.

Thailand, which finished 7th place at the 2023 FIVB Challenger Cup in Doha, fielded a formidable lineup led by devastating left-hander Amornthep Khonhan, Anurak Phanram and Supakorn Jenthaisong, while Philippines  were also strong offensively with the likes of Marck Jesus Espejo and Kim Malabunga.

The Thais started solidly in the opening set with aggressive offense orchestrated by Amornthep and Supakorn. After leveling at 15-15, Thailand went ahead 21-18 and extended it to 23-20. Philippines tried to claw their way back, but their attempts were in vain as Thailand went on their attacks to take the first set 25-20.

Conceding one set, Philippines buckled down to work much harder in the second set, with skipper and veteran outside hitter Marck Espejo unleashing a barrage of attacks. Both sides locked horn in the see-saw battle, but Philippines fared better with impressive offensive system. Marck Espejo fired a powerful spike to hand the team last point and end the Thai challenge in this set 25-23.

In the third set, Philippines initially gained the upper hand as outside hitter Jade Alex Diisquitado showed his wares, sending the team to a narrow 16-15 lead before Thailand hit back with a 7-3 rampage that carried them to a 22-19 cushion.

Middle blocker Anuchit Pakdeekaew’s fast attack brought Thailand to the set point before Amornthep soared from the back to help the team clinch the set 25-22.

The fourth set saw Philippines give it all out and kept it close at 17-18, but a double contact violation against Joshua Retamar followed by an ace serve from Supakorn sent Thailand to the match point at 24-19. Philippines saved one match point before a spike from Espejo went out wide. Thailand captured the crucial set 25-20 and match.

Amornthep Khonhan scored a match-high 30 points including 29 kills from 48 attempts for Thailand, while Supakorn Jenthaisong contributed 15 points including 14 kills. Marck Jesus Espejo led Philippines with 16 points including 15 kills from 30 attempts, with Jade Alex Disquitado adding another 14 points on the team’s loss.

Following the dramatic win, Thailand finished 9th place, a far cry from what they had achieved in the previous edition last year when they proudly stood on top of the podium, while Philippines finished the continental showpiece in 10th position for the second year running.

Earlier, Indonesia, fielding young stars, whose age average is 18 years – the youngest opposite Nibras Fauzan coming in at 16 and the oldest middle blocker Yoku Mega Yuri Pradana and opposite Fauzan Rama Fazza at just 22, survived a scare from Chinese Taipei, represented by their U20 squad, to seal the straight-set win 26-24, 25-21, 27-25.

After going down fighting in the first two sets, Chinese Taipei bounced back in the closely-contested third set, which they led initially 10-8. The Indonesians caught them at 14-14 and with Prasasti Yohanes Dedi unleasing a series of fierce attacks, they maintained control afterwards to forge ahead 16-14.

Chinese Taipei did not fear and countered with attacks and blocks to catch the rivals at 17-17. Leads changed hands for several times until the score was leveled at 25-25.

Indonesia scored two points in a row, with Krisna Krisna coming off the bench to hammer an off-the-block kill for the team’s last winning point. Indonesia took the set 27-25, match and the 11th place. Chinese Taipei finished on the bottom 12th position in this tournament.

RESULTS AND POOL RANKINGS

POOL 9-12

POOL 5-8

MATCH SCHEDULE

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