Volleyball News


Tokyo, Japan, May 22, 2016 – The Dominican Republic finished their 2016 World Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament with a flurry, posting a second consecutive win by beating Rio-bound Korea 3-0 (25-23, 25-11, 28-26).

The 19-year-old Brayelin Martinez and libero Brenda Castillo led the way for the Dominicans, who finished the tournament with two wins, while Korea could afford to smile despite losing matches to Thailand and the Dominican Republic in the last two days of competition.

For both teams, Sunday’s match was very much about the future. For the Dominicans, it was with an eye on Tokyo 2020, while for Korea it was much shorter term – fine tuning their line-up for Rio in August.

The Dominican Republic took to the court at full strength, with Brayelin Martinez, Brenda Castillo and Prisilla Brens all on duty, while Korea left Kim Yeon-Koung and Yang Hyo-Jin, their two highest point scorers, on the bench.

Korea led for most of the set, and at 22-18 should have been able to wrap up the set. But the Dominicans fought back to level at 22-all, before wrapping up the set 25-23.

Martinez led all comers with seven points for the set.

The 25-11 scoreline for the second set, said it all. Dominican Republic were out to make an impression and finish on a high, Korea continued to experiment with new combinations.

At 8-6 Korea were close, but the Dominicans strung together the next six points to make it 14-6, and then 21-9 before closing out the set 25-11.

Martinez took her personal points tally to 12, while Yonkaira Isabel was taking advantage of some quality court time with 11 points, while Annerys Valdez had picked up three blocks.

For Korea, Hang Youn-Joo was leading the charge on nine points.

Korea’s young guns came out spoiling for a fight in the third set, and held two set points at 24-22 before Castillo and Martinez combined to put the Caribbean team back on level pegging at 24-all.

An arm wrestle ensued, with Korea squandering another two set point opportunities, before powerful Martinez spikes finally ended the set 28-26, and a second win for the Dominican Republic 25-23, 25-11, 28-26.



Tokyo, Japan, May 22, 2016 – Determined Thailand completed their World Olympic Qualification Tournament campaign with a bang following a hard-fought 25-17 26-24 25-23 victory over formidable Peru to consolidate fifth place on the ladder.

There were emotional scenes among the Thai players after the match, with the dreams of a first ever Olympics at least another four years away.

Two teams who 24 hours earlier were still in the mix to make the Olympics, had to pick themselves up and go to battle one last time.

Both teams took the court at close to full strength, and it was the Peruvians who held the early advantage to lead 15-13.

In an incredible finish to the set, Thailand won the last eight points to take the score to 25-17, leaving a shattered Peru to try and pick up the pieces.

Much of Thailand strong first set showing was built around successfully shutting down Peru’s number one weapon, 19-year-old opposite Angela Leyva.

Onuma Sittirak with seven points, including two blocks, led the way for Thailand, while Leyva had just four points for Peru. 

The Thai defence continued to dominate in the second set, but Leyva was not to be denied, winning 11 points for the set to take her personal tally to 15.

Captain Mirtha Uribe, after a quiet day against the Netherlands, was back to her best, but Thailand was proving hard to stop.

Setter Pornpun Guedpard was again underlining her importance to the Thai team, her quick hands and lightning thought process providing her teammates with a comfortable ride.

The closing points of the set proved difficult for Thailand, but after giving up one set point it was able to close the deal 26-24.

With the finish line in sight, Thailand were made to work again in the third set. Leyva was continuing to find ways around the solid Thai defence, and Peru’s blocking came finally returned.

Uribe was leading the way with three block points, as Peru slipped out to a 13-11 lead.

Thailand captain Thinkaow Pleumjit took control of the set, helping steer her team into the lead, and holding their nerve in the closing stages, to wrap up the set 25-23 and the match 3-0.



Tokyo, Japan, May 22, 2016 – Italian teenager Paola Egonu further enhanced her reputation as one of the most exciting young players in women’s volleyball after helping her team to a 3-0 (25-22, 25-16, 25-19) win over Kazakhstan at the World Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

The 17-year-old Egonu finished the match with 21 points, while Kazakhstan will go home without a win but plenty of hope for the future.

Two teams at opposite ends of the qualification table not surprisingly took different approaches to the match.

For Kazakhstan it was all about winning their first match, while Italy adopted the same approach as other teams already qualified, and gave chances to players who had not seen a lot of court time in Japan.

As a result a rusty Italian combination took half a set to get going, while Kazakhstan were tighter early. The Asian team held control for the first half, but when Paola Egonu began to find her range, it spelled trouble for Kazakhstan.

Egonu blasted her way to eight points for the set, while for Kazakhstan, Irina Shenberger was enjoying some rare quality court time, finishing the set with seven points.

Italy took the opener 25-22.

At six-all in the second set Kazakhstan were looking competitive, but six straight points to the Italians quickly killed off the challenge. The score blew out, until some late Kazakhstan points made it more respectable at 25-16.

The third set was the last chance for the young Kazakhstan team to make an impact, but after a long week it was a bridge too far. The Italians, cock-a-hoop after qualifying for their fifth straight Olympics, were in no mood for sentiment, running out 25-19 and 3-0 winners.



Tokyo, Japan, May 22, 2016 – A raucous home crowd has lifted Japan to a gripping 3-2 (20-25, 25-13, 21-25, 32-30, 15-11) win over the Netherlands on the final night of the World Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament.

Both teams could well have been forgiven for hanging their hats back on the peg after locking up Rio spots 24 hours earlier, but instead opted to slug out a five-set epic which left fans almost as exhausted as the players themselves.

It might have been a dead rubber, but it didn’t stop the Japanese fans once again packing the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium to cheer on their Olympic-bound team.

Both teams had found out 24 hours they were Rio bound, making it difficult to lift for one last game after a long, high-pressure week of volleyball.

The Dutch looked the more switched on, controlling the set from the opening, with Lonneke Sloetjes and Celeste Plak providing a power combination that would strike fear in most teams in the world.

Japan rallied late to make the score more respectable, but the Netherlands were never in any real danger of dropping the set once they led 15-7, eventually triumphing 25-20.

The second set could not have been more of a contrast. Japan dominated, helped in no small part by an error-riddled Dutch team (18 to 6 after two sets) and another strong leadership game from captain Saori Kimura (nine points).

Sloetjes was continuing to lead the way for the Netherlands, taking her personal points tally to 13, but the Dutch were struggling in the second; trailing 8-16, 11-22 and eventually 13-25.

One of the exciting aspects of an event such as this one is seeing all the exciting young talent coming through the ranks. The Netherlands’ Celeste Plak is one such player.

The 20-year-old and with a swinging left arm that could knock over a cement statue, Plak has played second fiddle to Sloetjes all week, but when called upon can turn a game.

She was proving important against Japan, picking up 11 points, including three blocks, as well as several important digs.

Somehow the Netherlands managed to win the third set 25-21, despite a mounting error count (22-14 after three sets).

Sloetjes was up to 19 points, while Kimura on 12 and Miyu Nagaoka on 11 were doing best for the home team.

Japan’s volleyball-hungry fans just want to watch the game, and the prospect of seeing their beloved Olympians beaten in four sets was an option they would not entertain – even when the side trailed 16-12.

There’s something about a stadium jam-packed with starry-eyed fans armed with full voices that can lift any sporting team, and in Tokyo on this balmy Sunday evening that was definitely the case.

Soon the game was locked at 18-all. Point-for-point the match pulsated, two Rio-bound teams showing no signs of battle weariness after an intense week of volleyball.

The 24-24, 25-25, 26-26 – first Japan throwing away set points, then the Dutch throwing away match points, until finally, at 31-30, Miyu Nagaoka rifled an ace down the middle of the court that left the Dutch sprawling and the game headed to a fifth and deciding set.

For a game that had every right to be as stale as last week’s bread, this was anything but. The fifth set continued as the fourth ended; point-for-point, a crowd baying for more, and 12 punch-drunk athletes operating off the smell of adrenalin.

The euphoria of the crowd eventually lifted the weary home team over the line against an even more fatigued Netherlands 15-11 in the fifth, and 3-2 for the match.

History will show Japan won the final game of the 2016 Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament 3-2 over the Netherlands. What it won’t show is that despite there being nothing at stake, two teams threw themselves into a match like there was an Olympic gold medal up for grabs.