Vinh Phuc, Vietnam, September 19, 2016 – Defending three-time champions China overcame a daunting challenge from Thailand to narrowly edge past the 2012 winners in a hard-fought five-set semi-final encounter and set up a revenge match with old foes Kazakhstan in the final showdown of the “SMM” 5th AVC Cup for Women at the Vinc Phuc Gymnasium on Tuesday.
World No.1 and Olympics champions China, which suffered their first loss in the top-flight tournament after going down 2-3 to Kazakhstan 2-3 in the playoffs earlier, remained formidable with the likes of Zhang Changning, who competed in the gold-winning China national team at the last month’s Rio Olympic Games.
The embattled title-holders, which were also strengthened by powerful hitter Li Jing, Chen Liyi and fast attackers Yang Zhou and Zhang Xiaoya, beat Thailand 25-21 23-25 18-25 25-21 15-13 on Monday to secure a final berth. Thailand sent in a strong line-up which powered past Korea the previous day They included star spiker Pleumjit Thinkaow, veteran Wilavan Apinyapong, Thatdao Nuekjang, hard-attacking Ajcharaporn Kongyot and Pimpichaya Kokram.
The 193cm-tall Zhang Changning led China with 16 points, all from her devastating attacks. Li Jing added with 11 kills, while Zheng Yixin contributed with five points from her kill blocks. Ajcharaporn Kongyot scored a match-high 26 points for Thailand including 24 kills from 61 attempts, with Wilavan Apinyapong assisting with 14 kills and Thatdao Nuekjang with 5 points from solid blocks.
“It’s a tough match as China played well at the near end of the set. We could not cope with their great serves. The players who were sent in to replace the others played well up to their standard and could win some points for the team. I’m satisfied with my team’s performance. In our next match in the third-place playoff, we have to do our best no matter with team we will play. Our initial goal remains unchanged. We have to try our best to finish top three in this tournament,” Thailand’s head coach Danai Sriwacharamethakul commented after the match.
In the Tuesday’s final clash, China are due to challenge old foes Kazakhstan, which stormed back from the first-set down to beat Japan 3-1 (19-25 25-11 25-21 25-16) in the other semi-final clash, while Thailand and the Japanese will battle it out for the third position.
Yekaterinna Zhdanova scored a team-high 14 points for Kazakhstan including 10 kills from 21 attempts, while Arisa Inoue led Japan with 13 points, 12 of them through her deadly spikes.
“We want to win this match because we lost to Japan before and I’m very happy that we can beat them to make it to the final. We next play China, the team we had already beaten in the pool plays. However, it’s hard to say if we can repeat the feat. Only the best soldier can become the general. We have never won the AVC Cup before, so we will do our best to make history,” said Kazakhstan’s head coach Shapran Vyacheslav after the match.
Meanwhile, Iran avenge loss to Vietnam 3-1 (19-25 25-14 32-30 25-23) to go up against Chinese Taipei in the 5th-6th place playoff. The host side and winless Korea, which succumbed to straight-set 25-20 25-17 25-18 loss to Chinese Taipei on Monday, will fight it out for the 7th position in this tournament.
“It’s a beautiful win. I’m so happy with my team’s victory. I like their feeling of enjoying the victory, which is the best feeling in sport we the players can feel. I think my players performed well beyond my expectation in an important match against the hosts, to whom we lost in the preliminary match. It’s a sweet revenge for that loss. That day, they won the match and made their crowds happy after the opening ceremony, but today, it’s our turn. We need this victory. We next take on Chinese Taipei and I dare say it’s not easy. Every match for us is very difficult. I’m so realistic. However, if my girls can play like today, play with all their hearts, they can come up with good results. It’s still difficult, anyway,” Iran’s head coach Serbian Majda Cicic commented after the match.
Iran b Vietnam 3-1 (19-25 25-14 32-30 25-23)
Chinese Taipei b Korea 3-0 (25-20 25-17 25-18)
Kazakhstan b Japn 3-1 (19-25 25-11 25-21 25-16)
China b Thailand 3-2 (25-21 23-25 18-25 25-21 15-13)
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
12.00pm: 5th-6th playoff: Iran v Chinese Taipei
02.30pm: 7th-8th playoff: Vietnam v Korea
06.00pm: Bronze-medal match: Thailand v Japan
08.30pm: Championship match: China v Kazakhstan