Surabaya, Indonesia, July 31, 2017 – Kazakhstan caused a major upset on Monday when they stunned title-hotshots Korea with an epic come-from-behind 20-25 15-25 25-17 25-23 16-14 victory in the semi-finals of the SMM 19th Asian Senior Men’s Volleyball Championship at the Tri Dharma Petrokimia Gymnasium to storm into the final showdown for the second time in 24 years.
Kazakhstan, which finished a distant 11th place at the FIVB World League Group 3 this season, powered past Chinese Taipei in straight sets in the Sunday’s quarter-finals to advance to the top four teams for the second time of the biennial top-tier competition.
In 1993 in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, Kazakhstan made history after entering the final round of the biennial competition for the first time, but went down to formidable Korea in straight sets. Since then, Kazakhstan have never finished among top four in this championship
Against Korea, the only unbeaten team in the championship on Monday, Kazakhstan fielded a tall, aggressive line-up led by the 205cm-tall Vitaliy Erdshtein, who led the team with 15 points in their previous match against Chinese Taipei, hard-attacking Vitaliy Varivodin and Alexandr Stolnikov, while Korea remained strong with powerful hitter Moon Sungmin and Jung Jiseok spearheading.
Korea came up with quick play and powerful attacks of Moon Sungmin to take the first two sets 25-20 25-15, but Kazakhstan started to read the Korean tactics well, using high blocking to foil the rivals’ spiking efforts. Kazakhstan snatched the next two sets 25-17 25-23.
In the tie-breaker, both sides gave it all-out to win the set and match, which saw leads change hands for several times. Levelling at 13-13, Kazakstan won a crucial point to move ahead 14-13, needing only one more point to win the match. However, Korea did not give up easily to catch them at 14-14. To everyone’s surprise, Kazakhstan turned the tide when Vitaliy Erdshtein attacked devastatingly for the narrow 15-14 lead before a great serve from Alexandr Stolnikov went unanswered for the Kazakhstan’s hard-fought 16-14 win. The Kazakh players celebrated their stunning victory in the middle of the court, hugging each other and danced cheerfully in a circle. Korean players left the venue sadly in disappointment.
Kazakhstan entered the final round against title-holders Japan on Tuesday, while Korea set up a third-place playoff match with hosts Indonesia.
Vitaliy Erdshtein scored a match-high 19 points including 14 kills from 35 attempts and 3 ace serves. Vitaliy Varivodin contributed 14 points including 13 kills and Anton Kuznetsov 4 kill blocks. Moon Sungmin led Korea with 19 points, 18 of them through his powerful attacks. Shin Yungsuk added 15 points including 3 blocks and 2 aces.
“It’s beyond my expectation. I have never thought that my team can come this far. I think we played well today against Korea despite our dismal start. We exploited effective high blocks and combination attacks. Everyone helped one another as we just don’t want to lose easily. We will try to do our best in the final round,” Kazakhstan’s head coach Igor Nikolchenko commented after the match.
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