INJURY-PRONE ATYRAU OVERPOWER TORAY ARROWS IN HARD-FOUGHT FIVE-SET THRILLER
Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, August 1, 2018 – Kazakhstan’s Atyrau, whose two key players sustained ankle injuries, recovered from the first-set down to pull off a stunning 3-2 (22-25 25-23 22-25 25-19 15-11) victory over Japan’s Toray Arrows in their last pool round-robin preliminary match at the 2018 Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championship at the Wunna Theikdi Indoor Stadium Hall B on Wednesday.
Oleh Shevchenko capped 18-markers for Atyrau including 15 kills from 32 attempts, while another three players scored with double digits, with Anton Kuznetsov, Petr Churzin and Aibat Netalin scoring 16, 16 and 15 points respectively. Kazuki Ochiai was the top scorer of Toray Arrows with 20 points including 18 destructive attacks.
With Khatam Ardakan already capturing the top spot in Pool A, Toray Arrows from Japan and Kazakstan’s Atyrau battled it out for the second place in the pool. Atyrau are a side packed with talents in the likes of two Ukrainians, Roman Khandrolin and Oleh Shevchenko, and Russian Vasily Nosenko, while Toray Arrows were spearheaded by hard-hitting Kazuki Ochiai, who scored a team-high 20 points in their previous match against Khatam Ardakan.
The Japanese came up with powerful attacks from Kazuki and effective blocks by Kentaro Takahashi and Abe Yuta in the opening set, while Atyrau used their height advantage to attack mightily and block solidly. As Toray Arrows were taking a commanding 21-17 lead, Damir Akimov sustained his left ankle injury and was carried out of the competition court. He was the second Kazakh player who injured his ankle. On the opening match against Khatam Ardakan, Vitaliy Vorivodin, one of the Atyrau’s major forces also suffered from his ankle injury. Toray Arrows seized the golden chance to seal the deal in rapid time. The Japanese won 25-22.
The second set was hotly contested from the beginning. Atyrau made a promising start to stay in front with a four-point clear at 8-4. Toray Arrows put their acts together, aiming for a comeback, but the Kazakh side were solid with impeccable walls and big blows from Anton Kuznetsov and Oleh to take the close set 25-23.
The Kazakhs’ delight did not last long as the Japanese combined extreme power through Yuji Suzuki’s big spikes with incredible accurate serving of Yuji and Takaaki Tomimatsu for the hard-fought 25-22 in the third set.
Holding 1-2 disadvantage, Atyrau came back much stronger with mighty attacks from Shevchenko and Petr Churzin in the fourth set, which they won 25-19, forcing the rivals to fight it out in the decider.
The tie-breaker saw the Kazakh side jump to an early 9-5 lead, but the Japanese did not want to give up easily. Suzuki led the Japanese assaults to reduce the gap with just one-point behind at 9-10. To make short work of the Japanese, Atyrau allowed the smaller rivals two more points to win the set 15-11 and match.
With the win, Atyrau claimed the second spot in Pool A with 2 points from one win against one loss to unbeaten Khatam Ardakan, while Toray Arrows finished third in the pool with 1 point from two losses.
“We tried to do our best in this match, aiming for the win. Unfortunately, we had two injuries, but hope they can recover in time. Between Khatam Ardakan and Toray Arrows, I think the Iranian team have more ability, but we also have other tactics and strategies to play them if we meet again,” Atyrau head coach Sergey Trikoz commented.
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