Manila, Philippines, August 11, 2017 – Defending and 13-time champions China, fielding a strong team of young bloods, became the last team to make the cut for the top 8 round as they thrashed Australia in a totally one-sided in their last preliminary Pool B match at the SMM 19th Asian Senior Women’s Volleyball Championship at the Alonte Sports Arena on Friday.
The comfortable win gave China a second-place finish in Pool B with 3 points. The Chinese went down in straight sets to much stronger Japan in their opening match on Thursday.
Kazakhstan, the Philippines, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and Chinese Taipei have already advanced to the round of the last eight teams since Thursday following their top-two finish in each pool. With unbeaten Japan claiming the top spot in Pool B, China and Australia had to battle it out on Friday to determine the Pool B runners-up and the final ticket for the top 8 round.
As soon as China found their grooves, they were unstoppable in their track as they dispatched Australia 25-13, 25-8, 25-9 to remain in strong contention in battle for the prestigious Asian title at the top-flight competition.
Thailand swept Pool D after a straight-set victory over erstwhile unbeaten Chinese Taipei 26-24, 25-14, 25-15. Young talent Chatchu-on Moksri led the way for the Thais with 20 points, while 2013 MVP Wilawan Apinyapong added 15 and Hattaya Bamrungsuk chipped in 12.
Though lanky compared to other A-list spikers, Chatcu-on more than makes up for it with power and court smarts. “Yes, I am thin but I have power because I do a lot of weight training,” the outside hitter said in an interview.
“This is just my second time in this tournament. I hope our team win and bring home the third gold for Thailand,” Chatchu-on added.
Meanwhile, superstar spiker Kim Yeon-koung saved the day for Korea. Just when the Koreans looked in trouble, head coach Hong Sungjin pulled the most reliable trick from his hat, sending in Kim halfway through the fourth set to shut the door on gritty Vietnam 25-23, 25-19, 17-25, 25-22 on Friday.
While Metro Manila was being rocked by a 6.1 magnitude earthquake, Kim sent the crowd inside the Alonte Sports Arena cheering as she provided quality minutes with 5 markers in a little more than 10 minutes inside the court. This, after all, was exactly what Korea needed to match and stop Vietnam’s Tran Thi Thanh Thuy, who uncorked 25 points off 22 kills, 2 aces and a block.
“I already saw her play maybe 2 or 3 years ago. She is so much better now but I think she can even be better. I hope she continues to improve her game,” Kim said, talking about the emerging star from Vietnam, Thanh Thuy.
“I think we played well in the first two sets. Then in the third set we had a problem. We didn’t have a leader. But still we won so that’s good,” said Korea’s top spiker.
A much taller Kazakhstan team also proved to be a strong team to beat in this tournament as they denied the hosts Philippines 25-23, 25-20, 25-19 to top Pool A.
Katerina Tatko finished with 20 points to lead the attack for the Kazakhs, who finished the pool stage with a 2-0 win-loss record and will face Vietnam in the quarter-finals classification round on Sunday.
At the Muntinlupa Sports Complex, New Zealand came back from the first-set down 20-25 to beat Sri Lanka 25-23 25-18 25-19 in their last preliminary Pool C encounter to claim their first win at the championship on Friday.
Both teams have yet won a match in the top-flight competition, going down to Korea and Vietnam in their first two matches to be relegated to the 9th-14th classification round.
New Zealand’s team captain Stacy Niao explained that this very unusual game ritual is what they always do, to lift up their fighting spirits and ease their nervousness.
“Yes, we always do this. We sing the National Anthem along before we start our game and we play. We do this just to lift our spirits and become confident in the match,” Niao said.
Iran, though practically eliminated from the quarter-finals, still finished the group stage round on a winning note after ripping Maldives 25-4, 25-13, 25-14.
“We had two difficult matches against Chinese Taipei and Thailand and today we had a normal match against Maldives,” said Iran head coach Shojaei Mirmostafa.
At the end of the pool round-robin preliminaries on Friday, Kazakhstan and the Philippines advanced to the next round as the respective top two teams in Pool A, while Japan and China claimed the respective top two teams in Pool B. Korea and Vietnam led Pool C, with Thailand and Chinese Taipei in Pool D.
Saturday is the rest day. The competition resume the following day in the top 8 playoffs, with Kazakhstan taking on Vietnam and Korea facing Philippines in Pool E. Japan next play Chinese Taipei and Thailand go up against China in Pool F.
At the Alonte Sports Arena
Pool A: Kazakhstan b Philippines 3-0 (25-23 25-20 25-19)
Pool C: Korea b Vietnam 3-1 (25-23 25-19 17-25 25-22)
Pool D: Thailand b Chinese Taipei 3-0 (26-24 25-14 25-15)
At the Muntinlupa Sports Complex
Pool B: China b Australia 3-0 (25-13 25-8 25-9)
Pool C: New Zealand b Sri Lanka 3-1 (20-25 25-23 25-18 25-19)
Pool D: Iran b Maldives 3-0 (25-4 25-13 25-14)
TEAM RANKING AFTER POOL PRELIMINARIES
Pool A: 1. Kazakhstan 6 points; 2. Philippines 3 points; 3. Hong Kong 0 point
Pool B: 1. Japan 6 points; 2. China 3 points; 3. Australia 0 point
Pool C: 1. Korea 9 points; 2. Vietnam 6 points; 3. New Zealand 3 points; 4. Sri Lanka 0 point
Pool D: 1. Thailand 9 points; 2. Chinese Taipei 6 points; 3. Iran 3 points; 4. Maldives 0 point
SUNDAY, AUGUST 13, 2017
At the Alonte Sports Arena
Top 8 Playoffs
10.00am: Pool E: 1A-Kazakhstan v 2C-Vietnam
12.30pm: Pool F: 1B-Japan v 2D-Chinese Taipei
15.00pm: Pool F: 1D-Thailand v 2B-China
17.30pm: Pool E: 1C-Korea v 2A-Philippines
At the Muntinlupa Sports Complex
9th-14th Classification Round
10.00am: Pool G: 3A-Hong Kong v 4C-Sri Lanka
12.30pm: Pool H: 3B-Australia v 4D-Maldives
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