Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, July 30, 2016 – Mighty China moved a step closer to capturing their 12th title at the SMM 18th Asian Women’s U19 Championship when the title-holders pulled off a convincing straight-set 25-17 25-13 25-19 victory over hosts Thailand to set up final rematch with Japan at The Mall Nakhon Ratchasima’s MCC Hall.
The Sunday’s showdown between the two unbeaten teams will be a rematch of the 2014 final in Chinese Taipei, where China powered past the Japanese 3-1 to clinch their 11th crown. However, advancing to the final clash has earned both sides the two slots at stake to test their mettle at the next year’s FIVB Women’s U20 World Championship in Mexico in July.
In the semi-finals on Saturday, China, whose height average is 181cm against the Thais’ 173cm, used their height advantage to penetrate the Thai defence with powerful attacks from Cai Xiaoqing and Wu Han to snatch the opening set 25-17.
The Chinese went on their onslaughts in the second set. Wu Han and Qian Jingwen punctured the Thai defence with their sharp cross-court spikes as Cai Yaqian produced well-placed serves to silence the boisterous home supporters with the easy 25-13 win in the set.
Holding a 2-0 advantage, China remained in great form to take a commanding 24-14 lead in the third set, needing only one more point to take the set and match. Nevertheless, the Thai crowds packing the venue came to life when their team saved five watchpoints before Wu Han smashed a mid-court winner to end the hosts’ determined challenge. China took the set 25-19 and match.
Wu Han led China with 15 points including 13 kills from 32 attempts. Xie Xing added 4 on blocks and Cai Yaqian 6 on ace serves. Hard-attacking Wipawee Srithong emerged as the top scorer for Thailand with 10 points including 8 attacks. Pimpichaya Kokram, who led the hosts with massive 36 points the previous match against Chinese Taipei, added 9 on attacks.
China are due to go up against Japan in the Sunday’s final which can prove to be a clash of the Titans as both sides have already captured a majority of 16 Asian titles including China’s 11.
Japan, former five-time champions whose players are strong with the likes of half-Japanese, half-Kenyan Reina Tokoku and powerful attacker Arai Sho, thrashed off-form Vietnam in a lop-sided encounter 25-9 25-11 25-20 in the other semi-final clash.
Reina Tokoku scored a team-high 15 points including 11 attacks and 3 on blocks. Ai Kurogo and Ruriko Uesaka added 3 apiece on ace serves. Tran Tu Linh top scored with 6 points for Vietnam.
“We watched Vietnam play Korea on Friday night and I think the Vietnamese played a good match against the tough rivals. So, we prepared ourselves well to challenge them seriously in this match. We are ready to fight any team in the final,” Japan head coach Abo Kiyoshi commented after the match.
The two losing teams, Thailand and Vietnam, will contest the third-place playoff in what could be a final rematch of the recent “Princess Cup” South East Asian Women’s U19 Championship in Si Sa Ket, Thailand.
In the 5th-8th playoffs earlier, Chinese Taipei outclassed India in straight sets 25-23 25-17 25-18 to next battle it out with Korea for the fifth place on Sunday. Huang Ching-Hsuan tallied 14 points for Chinese Taipei including 13 kills from 44 attempts, while Vala Kinjalben bagged 13 points for India.
The other encounter saw Korea, bronze medallists at the previous edition two years ago in Chinese Taipei, demolish Kazakhstan 25-17 25-20 25-18. On Sunday, Korea will take on Chinese Taipei in the 5th-6th place playoff, while India will play Kazakhstan to vie for the 7th position.
Korea head coach Park Giju said: “Winning is not the only kind of goal we had initially targeted. We like to play tough also. We lost to Vietnam the previous day was just because we had a tense five-set battle with China and my players lost steam in the following match against Vietnam. In our last match against Chinese Taipei on Sunday, I’m convinced that we can beat them again. We had already beaten them in the Pool D preliminaries.
Korea team captain Ji Minkyeong added, “We were so sad about the bitter loss to Vietnam. Therefore, we tried to beat Kazakhstan in order that we will continue our true form and have our best result among the 5th-8th place playoffs. However, I admit that we lost to Vietnam because we were too tired and also stressed”.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong finished 13th place when they brushed off New Zealand in comfortable straight sets 25-16 25-19 25-17 in the 13th-14th place playoff at the Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University Gymnasium on Saturday.
The 11th place went to Australia following their pulsating 25-18 25-8 23-25 25-20 win over Macao in the playoffs, while Iran beat the Philippines 3-2 (25-16 25-19 15-25 14-25 15-10) to finish ninth position.
At MCC HALL
Chinese Taipei b India 3-0 (25-23 25-17 25-18)
Korea b Kazakhstan 3-0 (25-17 25-20 25-18)
Japan b Vietnam 3-0 (25-9 25-11 25-20)
China b Thailand (25-17 25-13 25-19)
At NAKHON RATCHASIMA RAJABHAT UNIVERSITY GYMNASIUM
13th-14th: Hong Kong b New Zealand 3-0 (25-16 25-19 25-17)
11th-12th: Australia b Macao 3-1 (25-18 25-8 23-25 25-20)
9th-10th: Iran b Philippines 3-2 (25-16 25-19 15-25 14-25 15-10)
SUNDAY, JULY 31, 2016
12pm: 7th-8th: India v Kazakhstan
2pm: 5th-6th: Korea v Chinese Taipei
4pm: Bronze-medal match: Vietnam v Thailand
6pm: Championship match: Japan v China