JAPAN IN FINAL SHOWDOWN AFTER BEATING HOSTS THAILAND IN TIE-BREAKER
Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, May 26, 2018 – Indomitable Japan moved a step closer to retaining their title as they pulled off a stunning 3-2 (22-25 25-15 23-25 25-16 15-2) comeback win over hosts Thailand in the semi-finals of the 12th Asian Women’s U17 Volleyball Championship at the Nakhon Pathom Municipality Gymnasium on Saturday.
Manami Koyama scored a team-high 21 points for Japan including 17 kills from 35 attempts and 3 ace serves, while Yoshie Kawakami contributed 17 points. Wiranyupa Inchan topscored Thailand with 14 points including 11 kills from 64 attempts.
The Thai girls, who recently captured the crown at the “Princess Cup” 20th South East Asian Women’s U17 Championship at the same competition venue here, made a superb start in the opening set. Cheered by nerve-wracking drum-beating home fans, Thailand gave it all-out, with Supatcha Kamalaksa carrying out well-placed serves and Pimtawan Thongyos and Wiranyupa Inchan puncturing the Japanese defence with destructive attacks. Leading narrowly 22-21, Thailand allowed the formidable visitors one more point from Yoshie Kawakami’s thundering spike to end the Japan’s challenge in the set 25-22.
Going down one set, the Japanese came back much stronger in the second set. They took the advantage from the Thailand’s jitter which caused the host side several unforced mistakes to win the comfortable set 25-15.
In the third set, Thailand put the reigning and seven-time Asian champions into shade with their eye-catching form. The host girls spiked, boosted and served well, thrilling a huge crowd of fans with their spirits and exceptional tactics in the action-packed battle.
With the 181cm Wiranyupa and Pimtawan attacking powerfully and Saowapa Soosuk surprising the rivals with lightning-fast spikes, Thailand took an initial 17-15 lead. Japan roared back with thundering mid-court attacks to tie the score at 23-all, but the host side proved uncatchable as they went on to win two straight points for the 25-23 win.
The fourth set saw Japan capture the lead 12-6 and widen the gap to 19-11. Despite the determination for a comeback, the Thai attempts were to no avail. Japan stormed on to win the set 25-16.
Yoshino Nishikawa led the Japan’s final assault in the deciding set. Jumping to a 8-1 lead, Japan proved their victories over powerhouses China and Korea in the pool plays earlier were no fluke, unleashing a series of powerful attacks to win the effortless tie-breaker 15-2, match and a place in the final clash.
“It was a tough match. Thailand are a very strong team and their fans made our game more difficult. However, my girls also played well and despite a daunting challenge from the host side, they still played well without any pressure. Thailand’s No. player, Saowapa Soosuk, played well and we just blocked her. The fifth set was unbelievable as we led all the ways. We will try our best in the final match,” Japan coach Daichi Saegusa commented.
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