Manila, Philippines, August 16, 2017 – Determined Thailand ended their SMM 19th Asian Senior Women’s Volleyball Championship semi-final campaign on high note when they pulled off stunning upset 25-20 25-20 25-21 win over Korea to seek revenge against Japan in the rematch of the 2013 final on Thursday.
Against unbeaten Korea, world No.10 and the team winning gold medal at the 2014 Asian Games on their home soil in Incheon, Thailand remained strong in their starting line-up. With veteran Pleumjit Thinkaow at the helm, the current world No.16 got off to a brilliant start to capture the thrilling first set 25-20, thanks to an exceptional performance of a trio of young talents in the team, Chatchu-on Moksri, Pimpichaya Kokram and Ajcharaporn Kongyot.
Powered by superstar spiker Kim Yeon-Koung, Korea, runners-up at this year’s FIVB World Grand Prix Group 2, gradually put their acts together and caught fire shortly after that. However, although coming a whisker of catching up with the fully-fledged rivals, Korea failed to make their mark, with much-loved icon Kim being prone to several unforced attacking mistakes. Thailand remained in superb form, playing confidently and consistently to win 25-20 25-21 in the second and third sets.
Ajcharaporn Kongyot led Thailand with 17 points, all from her attacks, while Chatchu-on Moksri contributed 13 kills and 3 blocks, while Kim Yeon-Koung scored a match-high 20 points in a losing effort of Korea including 18 kills from 48 attempts and 2 kill blocks.
The scintillating win not only handed Thailand a final berth in the biennial competition for the third time, but also smashed the Korea’s sweet dreams of capturing their maiden Asian title in Manila. Since the tournament’s inception in 1975 in Melbourne, Australia, Korea have yet won the Asian title although they have made it to seven finals of this championship.
Thailand will next go up against Japan, the team they had lost three times in a row within 30 days including two losses in the recent World Grand Prix. The Thursday’s final will be the second showdown between Thailand and Japan in the top-tier Asian Championship. In the 2013 final showdown in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand beat Japan to delight their boisterous home fans with their second Asian title. They had already claimed their historic crown in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2009.
“It was a good match as we counter-attacked quite well. I think Kim Yeon-Koung also played her best today, but we just tried to read her game and pushed her aggression to the limit. Against Japan in the final showdown, I think a tough task awaits us. We have already lost to them for three times in a row. Japan are a strong team. However, despite the loss, we have already improved our mistakes. I think our victory today will be a good answer for tomorrow’s showdown,” Thailand head coach Danai Sriwacharamaytakul commented after the match.
Earlier, Japan, which sent second string to finish a disappointing sixth place at the previous Asian meet two years ago in Tianjin, China, booked a first final berth following a lop-sided win over the less experienced crew of China 25-17, 25-18, 25-18. In the preliminary Pool B clash, former three-time Asian winners Japan had already beaten China in comfortable straight sets. China are defending and 13-time Asian champions, but sent a strong team of young bloods this time. China head coach Bao Zhuang claimed that famous players and all Chinese national team players are now preparing for their old clubs at the China National Games at the end of this month.
Japan head coach Kumi Nakada said after the semi-final match against China: “Our players kept their concentration to the very end and it was very good. Our semi-final match against China today was good especially for our setter.”
In the 5th-8th classification round, Vietnam stole the limelight after outlasting Kazakhstan 25-22, 25-18, 21-25, 20-25, 15-5 to remain in the hunt for a fifth-place finish, where the Vietnamese will next battle it out against Chinese Taipei.
What was expected to be a match that will go down the wire turned out to be a walk in the park for Chinese Taipei on Wednesday after they blasted hosts Philippines 25-19, 25-20, 25-19.
“We had pressure caused by the cheering Philippine crowds and their team have been progressing over the years. That’s why we had a few problems in playing the Philippines. However, our players just tried their best,” Chinese Taipei head coach Lin Min-Hui said in an interview.
“I think we played well, but if we have to play a good match against Vietnam, we have to block Tran Thi Thanh Thuy. She is so powerful. Actually, we aimed for a place in the semi-finals, but when we missed it, we now have to focus on the fifth place instead.”
Meanwhile, Iran produced a fantastic comeback 3-2 (19-25 25-18 20-25 25-22 15-10) win over Australia to claim the 9th place in this championship, while Hong Kong proved too strong for underdogs New Zealand to send the rivals packing 25-15 25-12 25-19. Hong Kong finished 11th place, leaving the Kiwis to return with the 12th position.
AT ALONTE SPORTS ARENA
5th-8th: Vietnam b Kazakhstan 3-2 (25-22 25-18 21-25 20-25 15-5); Chinese Taipei b Philippines 3-0 (25-19 25-20 25-19)
Japan b China 3-0 (25-17 25-18 25-18)
Thailand b Korea 3-0 (25-20 25-20 25-21)
AT MUNTINLUPA SPORTS COMPLEX
11th-12th: Hong Kong b New Zealand 3-0 (25-15 25-12 25-19)
9th-10th: Iran b Australia 3-0 (19-25 25-18 20-25 25-22 15-10)
Thursday, August 17, 2017
10.00am: 7th-8th: Kazakhstan v Philippines
12.30pm: 5th-6th: Vietnam v Chinese Taipei
15,00pm: Bronze medal-match China v Korea
17.30pm: Championship match: Japan v Thailand
20.00: Closing and awarding ceremonies
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