Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, August 24, 2016 – Strong teams continued their winning streaks on the earthquake-interrupted second day of the SMM 2016 Asian Men’s Volleyball Championship at the Wunna Theikdi Indoor Stadium in Nay Pyi Taw on Wednesday.
A powerful 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck central Myanmar on Wednesday. The quake reportedly at a depth of 84 kilometres (52 miles) was also felt across the country as well as neighbouring Thailand, India and Bangladesh, sending panicked players rushing out of Wunna Theikdi Hall B in Nay Pyi Taw here.
Qatar’s Al-Arabi Sports Club took the first set 25-17 in their second Pool C match against UAE’s Al Jazira Club on Wednesday, but were trailing 2-4 in the second set before the earthquake caused the Hall B to sway. Players of both teams ran out of the competition venue in fear of the collapse of the building. After the shaking had stopped, team players returned for the on-going game.
Al-Arabi Sports Club, silver medallists at the previous edition in Chinese Taipei, captured their second win in the top-flight tournament after thrashing Al Jazira Club in comfortable straight sets 25-17 25-18 25-15. Serbian import Uros Kovacevic led Al-Arabi Sports Club with 14 points including 12 kills from 19 attempts. Sierra Sanchez emerged as the top scorer of Al Jazira Club after collecting 13 points.
Nonetheless, despite the win, an uphill task awaits Al-Arabi Sports Club on Thursday when they will next face tough rivals in Shanghai Golden Age of China in a crucial match to decide the winners of Pool C.
“If you see the score of course it was an easy match, but it wasn’t that easy actually. Every time, I want to give all of my players a chance to play and they played very well. The key of our victory today is we just tried to put pressure on them through our good services. I am very happy that at the end of the day we won,” said Lajnef Maaouia, head coach of the Qatari side.
Asked about the next match against Shanghai Golden Age of China, Maaouia replied, “We saw them in the last two matches. They are a very good team and very competitive, so I think it is going to be a very difficult match for us.”
In the other Pool C encounter, Shanghai Golden Age of China outclassed Thailand’s Wing 46-Phitsanulok in straight sets 25-20 25-14 25-18. Strongly-built Dai Qingyao scored a team-high 13 points including 7 attack hits and 4 stuff blocks for the Chinese team. Hungarian-born German Gyorgy Grozer assisted with 11 kills and one ace serve. Anut Promchan top scored with 12 points for the Thai counterparts. Conceding two straight losses, Wing 46-Phitsanulok are likely not to be able to advance to the quarter-finals and instead, they will be relegated to the 9th-14th classification round.
After the match, Chinese head coach Shen Qiong expressed his satisfaction over his team’s victory.
“I am satisfied with my team’s performance but my players still need improvement. Thailand played well but they still lack experience. We will next play Al-Arabi Sports Club of Qatar tomorrow (Thursday). They are a very strong team with many good players. I think they are better than us and it is going to be a very tough match for us,” Shen Qiong, former Chinese national team player, commented after the match.
Despite the loss, Thai coach Kampon Sripo admitted that his players performed better than their Wednesday’s match against Al-Arabi Sports Club.
“Today we know how to play taller rivals. Our reception was much better than the previous match, so we could attack them efficiently. Though our chance to play in the quarter-finals is very dim, we will try to keep this good form for the next match against Al Jazira Club.”
Contesting at the same Hall B, Toyoda Gosei Trefuerza of Japan registered their second Pool B win after pulling off a hard-fought 27-25 25-23 25-19 victory over Indonesia’s Polri Samator.
In the first two sets, the game was very close as both teams traded points, but with the greater experience, the Japanese side fared better in some crucial moments to take a commanding 2-0 lead. In the third set, Toyoda Gosei Trefuerza played more consistently to unleash a series of powerful spikes and solid blocks to take the lead right from the start. The Indonesian side became more prone with many unforced mistakes, allowing the Japanese team to control the game until the end of the third set.
“I think both teams struggled with reception and serves but we were better at the end. We had a little problems as we have many new players in the team. At the near end of the first two sets, we played better and made less mistakes. In the third set, we could control the game,” said Swedish Anders Kristiansson, head coach of the Japanese side.
“In this tournament, there are many strong teams but the favorites can be teams from Iran, Qatar and China. Qatar have many foreign players, but we don’t have many like them. Now I have yet thought about how far we can go. The most important thing is to play our best in round of the final eight teams,” he added.
Takuya Takamatsu led Toyoda Gosei Trefuerza with 15 points including 13 deadly attack hits, while Rivan Nurmulki top scored with 10 points for Polri Samator.
The last match at Hall B saw Iran’s Bank Sarmayeh power past Malaysia in straight sets 25-22 25-18 25-10 in Pool D. Montenegro import Vojin Cacic scored a match-high 14 points for the Iranian side, while Sim Jian Qin collected 9 points for Malaysia.
At Wunna Theikdi Hall C, Taiwan Power from Chinese Taipei clinched the second win after downing Iraq’s Al Janoop in a closely-contested three-set thriller 25-18 25-22 25-22 in Pool B. Also emerging victorious were Altay VC from Kazakhstan. Altay VC, which went down 1-3 in the previous match against Bank Samaryeh, defeated Hong Kong in comfortable straight sets 25-15 25-12 25-14 in Pool D.
On Thursday, Toyoda Gosei Trefuerza take on Taiwan Power, Gas Al Janoob face Polri Samator, Wing 46-Phitsanulok challenge Al Jazira Club, while Al-Arabi Sports Club face a tough challenge against Shanghai Golden Age, Altay VC go up against Malaysia and Hong Kong take on Bank Sarmayeh.
The pool round-robin preliminaries continue through Thursday and only top two teams from each pool will advance to the quarter-finals. Teams finishing third and fourth places in each pool will be relegated to 9th-14th classification round.
Toyoda Gosei Trefuerza(Japan) b Polri Samator (Indonesia) 3-0 (27-25 25-23 25-19)
Taiwan Power (Chinese Taipei) b Gas Al Janoob (Iraq) 3-0 (25-18 25-22 25-22)
Shanghai Golden Age (China) b Wing 46-Phitsanulok (Thailand) 3-0 (25-20,25-14 25-18)
Al-Arabi Sports Club (Qatar) b Al Jazira (UAE) 3-0 (25-17 25-18 25-15)
Altay VC (Kazakhstan) b Hong Kong 3-0 (25-15 25-12 25-14)
Bank Sarmayeh (Iran) b Malaysia 3-0 (25-22 25-18 25-10)