Bangkok, Thailand, July 7, 2016 – The Netherlands came from behind to stun World Cup winners and world No.2 China in hard-fought five-set thriller 23-25 25-14 19-25 25-20 15-8 to keep their semi-finals hopes alive at the 2016 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix Finals at the Indoor Stadium Hua Mark on Thursday.
The Netherlands tried to make amends for their straight-set loss to the USA the previous day which forced them to take on China with back against the wall. In determined efforts of playing a must-win match against the Chinese, the Dutch performed well beyond expectation to overpower the fired-up rivals in a gruelling five-setter.
Lonneke Sloetjes became a smashing machine for the Netherlands as she scored a team-high 31 points including 25 kills from 60 attempts. She also led in blocking with five. Gong Xianyu top scored with 21 points for China, leading all individual skills for the team with 15 points in attacks, three each in blocking and serving.
China and the Netherlands set up a tight contest in the first set. With the 199cm Yuan Xinyue and Liy Xiaotong taking excellent combination attacks, China took the hard-fought opener 25-23.
The Netherlands found their rhythm in the second set when they came up with impenetrable defence, allowing China scoring difficulties. The Dutch wrapped up the comfortable set 25-14 for a 1-1 tie.
The mighty China regained their form in the third set. With Hui Ruoqi and Zhang Xiaoya hitting like lightning, the Chinese snatched the set 25-19. However, Lonnie Sloetjes was the Netherlands’ comeback in the fourth set, which they won 25-20 and set up a tie-break against the Asian powerhouses.
In the decider, the Dutch fared much better, while the Chinese made several unforced mistakes. The Netherlands captured the set 15-8 and mach.
On Friday, China go up against world champions, world No.1 and title-holders USA at 3pm Bkk time. Hosts Thailand play a do-or-die match against Russia at 6pm, with the losers advancing to the semi-finals.
Netherlands coach Giovanni Guidetti expressed his satisfaction over the stunning win over China. “It is a very tough match. It’s never an easy play against a great team like China. I think spectators enjoyed the match and are amazed. And I’m very happy for this victory because for us, winning China is always a great thing because they are really the world’s top team. We intend to have a chance to play in the final of the World Grand Prix again. And, I want to congratulate my players because they put a lot of effort today to win the match.”
Netherlands captain Maret Balkestein-Grothues added, “Of course, we are very happy with this win. It’s victory for us. It was a great match and a great rally. It’s good for spectators. It was good to be at the court and we have fighting spirit. I’m proud of my team.”
China coach An Jiajie was disappointed with his team’s performance. “It’s a pity that we could not win. We made a lot more mistakes. Our receives were not good. I hope we will play better for the next match. The next match against the USA will be very tough as they are very strong. It must be a wonderful match out there,” he said.
China captain Hui Ruoqi said: “I’m disappointed that we lost this match. Netherlands play very well. I hope we can do much better in the next match.”