Nakhon Ratchasima, July 29, 2016 – A daunting task awaits hosts Thailand as they will go up against defending and 11-time champions China and Vietnam made history on Friday following a stunning victory over Korea to cruise their ways into the semi-finals for the first time ever at the SMM 18th Asian Women’s U19 Volleyball Championship at The Mall Nakhon Ratchasima’s MCC Hall.
Contesting the knockout quarter-finals on Friday, formidable Japan, former five-time champions and silver medallists at the previous edition in Chinese Taipei two years ago, keep their hopes of advancing to the final showdown at the biennial top-flight competition alive when they pulled off a comfortable straight-set 25-10 25-10 25-19 victory over Kazakhstan, coached by Yelena Pavlova, former Kazakhstan national ace spiker who steered the team to victory at the 2007 Asian Women’s Club Championship and led the team to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
Ruriko Uesaka led Japan with 11 points including 6 kills from 17 attempts and 3 points on ace serves. Sho Arai added 6 on attacks. Sabira Bekisheva claimed only 5 points for Kazakhstan.
With the convincing win, unbeaten Japan became the first team to make the cut for the semi-finals.
Japanese head coach Abo Kiyoshi expressed satisfaction over his team’s performance. “We prepared ourselves well against Kazakhstan especially how to overcome the tall blockers with our spikes. I think we have drastically improved our serves and at the same time, the Kazakhstan’s reception was still far from impressive. Actually, I think Kazakhstan have a good playing system. Their defense and offence also prove well that they are strong and we could not underestimate them. They are talented players with a promising future. I’m convinced that after this, they will perform well at a senior level.”
Kazakhstan coach Yelena Pavlova said: “My players played well. We lost just because they could not hold their nerves. They always became prone with individual unforced mistakes, allowing the team difficulties to come back. However, I’m sure they are potential.”
China, questing for their 12th Asian title, sent India packing in a totally one-sided battle 25-8 25-10 25-11 just in one hour.
The 186cm-tall Qian Jingwen top scored with 14 points for China including 10 attacks and 3 on ace serves. Cai Xiaoqing and Wu Han added 10 points apiece on spikes. Anifa Stancy won 6 points for India, all of them through spikes.
After the match, India head coach Ajay Jangra commented on his team: “My players did their best. All they need is more experience from international competitions.”
In the third match of the day, Vietnam defied against all odds to stun indomitable Korea, bronze medallists at the previous episode, in incredible four sets 30-28 13-25 25-20, 25-17 in gruelling 108 minutes.
For Vietnam, this was their unprecedented success in the Asian Women’s U19 Championship as they have never made it to the semi-finals since the tournament’s inception in 1980 in Seoul, Korea. Vietnam made their presence felt in 2002 when they hosted the tournament for the first time in Ho Chi Minh and the host side finished sixth overall. Since then, they have never advanced to the semi-finals. A stunning victory over Korea on Friday for a place in the semi-finals was a new chapter of Vietnam’s volleyball history.
Luu Thi Hue, the team’s tallest player with the height of 180cm, scored a match-high 21 points including 19 points on attacks and Tran Viet Huong added 4 points on blocks. Kim Juhyang was Korea’s top scorer with 20 points.
Commenting on his team’s performance, Vietnam head coach Japanese Koichi Shuto said, “Winning or losing, it is mostly about the team mentality. When they are down-hearted, they lose and never try to come back. When they are up, they play better. We next challenge Japan in the semi-finals. I think my team are lucky to play Japan twice. It will be a tough match for us out there, but we will do our best. I hope that my players will learn a lot of things from the match. At least, they will obtain good experience.”
The last match on Friday saw Thailand’s gutsy display bring home fans to their feet. The host side performed brilliantly to power past gallant Chinese Taipei in dramatic four sets 25-23 22-25 25-19 25-18 to steamroll into the semi-finals four times in a row since they made it in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016.
Talented Pimpichaya Kokram, who joined the Thailand national senior squad for the recent FIVB World Grand Prix, scored a team-high 36 points for Thailand, the highest points scored by any player in one match at this Asian meet in Nakhon Ratchasima. Chen Yu-Chieh led Chinese Taipei with 18 points.
Meanwhile, the 9th-15th place playoffs at the Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University Gymnasium on Friday saw New Zealand taste their first victory in the top-flight tournament after producing a come-from-behind 3-1 (22-25 25-14 25-19 26-24) victory over Sri Lanka.
Teina Rihari led New Zealand with 27 points including 21 on attacks. She also led in blocking and serving skills with 2 and 4 points respectively. Chamali Karunarathina handed Sri Lanka 19 points in this match. Suriya Jayani added 4 on blocking.
Iran also made their mark on Friday after struggling to beat Australia in hard-fought five sets 25-17 21-25 16-25 25-16 19-17), while Philippines thrashed Macao 25-21 25-14 25-22.
The semi-finals to determine the two teams in the final showdown and the two tickets for the next year’s FIVB Women’s U20 World Championship in Mexico will be held at The Mall Nakhon Ratchasima’s MCC Hall on Saturday, with Japan taking on Vietnam and hosts Thailand facing a daunting challenge against China. In the 5th-8th playoffs earlier, Korea will play Kazakhstan and India will challenge Chinese Taipei.
The final day at the Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University Gymnasium on Saturday will see Hong Kong and New Zealand battle it out for the 13th position, Australia and Macao will compete in the 11th-12th place playoff and Iran will fight against Philippines to vie for the 9th place.
At MCC Hall
Japan b Kazakhstan 3-0 (25-10 25-10 25-19)
China b India 3-0 (25-8 25-10 25-11)
Vietnam b Korea 3-1 (30-28 13-25 25-20 25-17)
Thailand b Chinese Taipei 3-1 (25-23 22-25 25-19 25-18)
At Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University Gymnasium
New Zealand b Sri Lanka 3-1 (22-25 25-14 25-19 26-24)
Iran b Australia 3-2 (25-17 21-25 16-25 25-16 19-17)
Philippines b Macao 3-0 (25-21 25-14 25-22)
SATURDAY, JULY 30, 2016
At MCC Hall
12pm: India v Chinese Taipei
2pm: Kazakhstan v Korea
4pm: Japan v Vietnam
6pm: Thailand v China
At Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University Gymnasium
2pm: 13th-14th: Hong Kong v New Zealand
4pm: 11th-12th: Australia v Macao
6pm: 9th-10th: Iran v Philippines