Surabaya, Indonesia, July 30, 2017 – Kazakhstan became the first team to secure a semi-final berth of the SMM 19th Asian Senior Men’s Volleyball Championship, their first time in 24 years to advance to the top four in the biennial top-tier competition, following their 3-0 demolition of Chinese Taipei on Sunday.
Kazakhstan, 11th place at the FIVB World League Group 3 this season, have never made it to the top four teams at the Asian meet since 1993 in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, where they went down to Korea 0-3 in the final showdown to return with silver medal. They came within a whisker of entering the top-four round in 2009, but had to be content with the fifth position.
The Kazakhs, who went down to Korea 1-3 the previous day, utilised their height advantage to effectively attack and block the smaller-built Chinese Taipei. As Kazakhstan, whose height average is 196cm against the rivals’ 186cm, took the first two sets 25-22 25-22, Chinese Taipei regrouped and tried to make a comeback.
With left-hander Wu Tsung-Hsuan and Liu Hung-Min leading the Chinese Taipei’s charge in the third set, Kazakhstan relied on the 205cm-tall Vitaliy Erdshtein’s powerful attacks to help the team take a slender 24-23 lead. In the final moment, a thundering spike from Erdshtein went wide, but the referee awarded the point to Kazakhstan after seeing the ball touched by Chinese Taipei. The Kazakhs captured the close set 25-23, match and a semi-final berth. The Kazakhs were on cloud nine, dancing around and hugging one another Everyone was all smiles.
Vitaliy Varivodin and Vitaliy Erdshtein handed the winning team 15 points apiece with 14 kills from the former and 12 kills from the latter. Liu Hung-Min led Chinese Taipei with 9 points, all from his attack hits.
“We have played Chinese Taipei for several times. They are one of the strong teams in this tournament. However, if you think about China, Iran and Chinese Taipei, of course they are strong. However, if you happen to play team, Chinese Taipei will be the first team we can beat because they are not that tall like China and Iran. We next will have to play either Korea or China, but it’s likely that we will take on the Koreans. There are six good players in the Korean side and we have to think how to cope well with their tactics when we meet in the semi-finals,” commented Kazakhstan’s 47-year-old Igor Nikolchenko, who moved to Altay Volleyball Club in Kazakhstan, leading the side to back-to-back National League titles in 2016 and 2017.
As Kazakhstan advance to the top four, Chinese Taipei were relegated to the 5th-8th classification round. At the previous Asian meet in Tehran, Iran two years ago, Kazakhstan finished a disappointing 9th place, while Chinese Taipei claimed the 6th position.
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