Manila, Philippines, August 14, 2017 – The SMM 19th Asian Senior Women’s Volleyball Championship has reached its climax on Tuesday when top eight teams will emerge into the knockout phase at the quarter-finals with their credentials well-tested this time around at the Alonte Sports Arena.
At completion of the top 8 playoff encounters on Monday, Korea and Japan became the only two unbeaten teams in this top-flight competition and both sides topped their pools, with the former making a clean sweep in Pool E and the latter did likewise in Pool F.
Contesting their last top eight playoff encounter on Monday to decide the Pool F winners, world No.6 and former three-time Asian champions Japan, under the close supervision of Kumi Nakada, the first-ever women’s coach of Japan national team in history, survived a scare from old foes Thailand, the team they had beaten twice in the recent FIVB World Grand Prix Preliminaries in the Netherlands and on their home soil in Sendai, to capture a fantastic comeback 3-1 (22-25 25-20 25-22 26-24) victory.
Japan badly needed to regain the pride lost in the previous Asian meet two years ago in Tianjin, China. Fielding second string to the biennial top-tier tournament there, Japan left with their heads low in disappointment following a bitter six-placed finish.
World No.14 Thailand are chasing sweet dreams of winning their third crown in every four year as they won their maiden title in 2009 in Hanoi, Vietnam and second in 2013 at home.
Despite the loss, Thai veteran Wilavan Apinyapong, who won the MVP award at the 2013 edition in her hometown Nakhon Ratchasima, remained upbeat that her team can make a strong comeback.
“I think my team played well, but we need improvement on teamwork and erratic tactics. However, despite the loss to Japan,, we still have chances of making amends in the next round, where we will take on the Philippines, one of our rivals at the South East Asian Games in Malaysia later this month,” she said.
“The likely win in that round will give us an opportunity to play in the semi-finals, our initial target. I hope that my team will perform well in that round. If given a chance, I’m sure my team are ready to reclaim the Asian title no matter which team we will play in the showdown.”
The other Pool F clash between China, defending and 13-time Asian champions but fielding a strong U23 squad this time, and well-established Chinese Taipei saw the the former use their height advantage to overpower the fighting rivals in a hard-fought five-set thriller 25-22 19-25 20-25 25-21 15-11. Both teams have already suffered straight two losses to Japan and Thailand.
In Pool E, Kim Yeon-Koung still proved to be a major force for Korea to be reckoned with when she added firepower to the team for the sensational 25-21 26-24 25-10 victory over Kazakhstan. Although brushing off the rivals in straight sets, Korea lost Yang Hyojin, one of the team’s key players, in this crucial match as she sustained a serious back injury in the third set and was stretchered out.
The day’s highlight wen to the last match when the Philippines delighted their boisterous fans at the Alonte Sports Arena with a stunning win over Vietnam. The host side defied against all odds to win the tough battle against the Vietnamese in an all-Asians affair 27-25 26-24 17-25 25-23.
Korea stayed atop Pool E with 9 points from straight three wins, followed by Kazakhstan with 6 points from two wins against one loss. The Philippines and winless Vietnam came in third and fourth places after collecting 3 and 0 points respectively.
Japan claimed the top spot in Pool F with 9 points from consecutive three wins. Thailand had 5 points from two wins against one loss. China and lacklustre Chinese Taipei finished respective third and fourth places after collecting 3 and 1 points.
In the knockout quarter-finals on Tuesday, which will see the winners secure their places in the semi-finals and the losers relegated to the 5th-8th classification, Korea will take on Chinese Taipei and Japan play Vietnam, while hosts Philippines will be pitted against Thailand and China meet Kazakhstan.
Meanwhile, the 9th-14th classification round for the lower-ranked teams at the Muntinlupa Sports Complex on Monday saw Australia overcome a strong challenge from Iran to cruise past the spirited rivals in hard-fought four sets 23-25 25-22 25-20 25-22 in Pool H, while Hong Kong had a field day following a convincing 25-16 25-20 25-12 victory over New Zealand in Pool G.
Hong Kong, New Zealand and Sri Lanka had the similar performance of one win against one loss, but Hong Kong had 4 points to move to the top of Pool G, while New Zealand and Sri Lanka finished second and third with 3 and 2 points respectively.
In Pool H, Australia proved to be the strongest after bagging 6 points from straight two wins, followed by Iran and Maldives with 3 and no point respectively.
On Tuesday, Sri Lanka and Maldives will battle it out in the 13th-14th place playoff, while Hong Kong take on Iran and Australia meet New Zealand in the 9th-12th playoff encounters.
AT ALONTE SPORTS ARENA
TOP 8 PLAYOFFS
Korea b Kazakhstan 3-0 (25-21 26-24 25-10)
Philippines b Vietnam 3-1 (27-25 26-24 17-25 25-23)
China b Chinese Taipei 3-2 (25-22 19-25 20-25 25-21 15-11)
Japan b Thailand 3-1 (22-25 25-20 25-22 26-24)
AT MUNTINLUPA SPORS COMPLEX
Pool G: Hong Kong b New Zealand 3-0 (25-16 25-20 25-12)
Pool H: Australia b Iran 3-1 (23-25 25-22 25-20 25-22)
TUESDAY, AUGUST 15, 2017
AT ALONTE SPORTS ARENA
10.00am: 2E-Kazakhstan v 3F-China
12.30pm: 1E-Korea v 4F-Chinese Taipei
15.00pm: 1F-Japan v 4E-Vietnam
17.30pm: 2F-Thailand v 3E-Philippines
AT MUNTINLUPA SPORTS COMPLEX
10.00am: 13th-14th: Sri Lanka v Maldives
12.30pm: 9th-12th: Hong Kong v Iran
15.00pm: 9th-12th: Australia v New Zealand
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