Vinh Phuc, Vietnam, September 20, 2016 – In-form Thailand put it past fighting Japan in comfortable straight sets 25-22 25-16 25-17 in the third-place playoff of the ‘SMM” 5th AVC Cup for Women at the Vinh Phuc Gymnasium here on Tuesday to claim consolation bronze medal at the week-long competition.
The convincing win over the Japanese youngsters was a sweet revenge for the Thailand’s bitter loss at the hands of the full-fledged Japan national team at this year’s FIVB World Grand Prix and at the World Olympic Qualification Tournament. It was also a successful comeback for Thailand in the AVC Cup after they had a disappointing outing at the previous edition two years ago in Shenzhen, China, where Thailand, represented by their U23 team, finished a distant 5th place ini the top-fight competition.
Thailand, which made much of the impact in 2012 to capture the AVC Cup with the final win over China, fielded a strong line-up mixed by veterans Wilavan Apinyapong and Pleumjit Thinkaow with young, potential players such as Ajcharaporn Kongyot, Pimpichaya Kokram and Thatdao Nuekjang.
Japan sent a young team aimed for a promising future aged between 19 and 23 years. They included powerful attackers Misaki Yamauchi, Yuka Imamura and Arisa Inoue.
Both teams traded points from the start, making the most of their spectacular attacks, scintillating blocks and powerful jump serves which saw neither team lead with more than a two-point margin. Leads changed hands for several times, but Thailand fared better with exceptional spikes from Wilavan, Pleumjit and terrific mid-court attacks from Ajcharaporn to snare the see-saw first set 25-22.
Their confidence increasingly boosted with the first-set win, Thailand played more comfortably in the second set. Despite putting up a brave fight against the much stronger Thais, Japan found no match against the gritty oppositions. Leading 24-16 for good, Thailand won the crucial point to wrap up the easy set 25-16, thanks to talented Wilavan’s sharp attack from the back court.
Thailand still dominated the third set, with Pimpichaya and Ajcharaporn taking turns penetrating the Japanese defence with their kills to put the Thais in the pole position 18-14. Japan tried to respond with a brave fight, but they could not cope with the Thais’ exceptional tactics. Thailand captured the set 25-17, match and the bronze medal. Japan, which finished fourth two years ago, maintained the similar position this time.
Wilavan Apinyapong led Thailand with 13 points including 11 kills. Pimpichaya Kokram added 11 points from her deadly attacks. Pleumjit Thinkaow contributed with 3 solid blocks, while Ajcharaporn Kongyot carried out 3 ace serves. Arisa Inoue collected 12 points for Japan including 10 kills from 31 attempts.
“It’s a good match against the Japanese. We learn how to play a team with a rock solid defence like Japan. The key for our win today is our great serves and blocks. In this match, I sent in young setter Tichaya (Boonlert) to gain experience and she performed well beyond our expectation. Compared with our previous match against China, I think this match against Japan is easier. The Chinese came up with hard attacks and good blocks. However, in terms of our serves, we need improvement because in the world-level competitions, we have to serve effectively and efficiently, much better than here in Vinh Phuc. Our combination among players should also be better than this. However, I’m satisfied with my team’s victory over Japan,” Thailand’s head coach Danai Sriwacharamethakul commented after the match.