Volleyball News


Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, September 21, 2018 – Terrific Liu Yanhan scored a match-high 42 points as title-holders China overcame a sturdy challenge from Thailand to power past the host side in hard-fought five-set thriller and set up final showdown with Japan at the 6th AVC Cup for Women at Chartchai Hall here on Friday.

The dramatic 25-18 25-21 25-27 22-25 15-10 victory earned China a berth in the final, where they will be pitted against Japan on Sunday. Thailand will take on Chinese Taipei in the third-place playoff on the same day.

Liu Yanhan chipped in with 42 points from 40 attacks, one block and one ace for China. Onuma Sittirak contributed 24 points including 22 kills from 44 attempts for Thailand, with Pimpichaya Kokram adding 16 points.

Against Thailand, fielding a full team which picked up the maiden silver medal at the recent Asian Games in Indonesia, China sent in a formidable lineup led by ace spiker Liu Yanhan, who led her team to victory in the 2015 Asian Women’s U23 Championship in the Philippines, and the 194cm Gao Yi.

China, defending and four-time champions, made an explosive start in the first set to take an early 10-7 lead, thanks to their solid blocks led by Zhang Yichan and Zheng Yixiin and Liu’s seismically powerful display. China advanced with a 7 point-clear at 19-13 before coach Danai Sriwacharamaytakul sent in veteran Onuma Sittirak and Malika Kanthong to intensify their offence. However, China were a side packed with talents and they played exceptionally well in both defence and offence. As Thailand battled hard, trailing by six points at 16-22, China increasingly grew their dominance. With Liu Yanhan tearing the Thai defence into pieces with her spectacular attacks and Gao Yi effectively blocking Ajcharaporn Kongyot’s spikes, the Chinese sealed the first set 25-18.

Thailand bounced back in style as they trailed 1-4, blunting the Chinese attacking attempts to close the margin 6-6. Still, China were seemingly superior in every department. Liu Yanhan turned on a scoring machine and Gao Yi, coupled with Zhang Yichan, remained major forces as China captured the pole position with a 5-point clear at 18-13. Danai called a timeout to improve the team’s strategy, but his intention was in vain as China stretched it to 20-17. As Onuma’s attacks brought Thailand back on track to closely trail 20-21, China maintained their poise and hit back aggressively, with Liu Yanhan exploding her blows from mid court. China took the second set 25-21.

Zheng Yixin’s lightning-fast spikes and Liu Yanhan’s deadly spikes put Thailand in front in the third set with a 3-point clear at 7-4. Cheered on lustily by drum-beating home fans, Thailand put their acts together, hoping for a comeback and their determination bore fruits moments later after Onuma, Hattaya Bamrungsuk and Pimpichaya Kokram unleashed spectacular spikes to level at 17-17. Thailand started to produce the goods with Pimpichaya and Ajcharaporn overpowering the taller blockers with their attacks to help the home side advance 21-20. Nonetheless, China combined extreme power through Liu’s acrobatic spikes and Gao’s fast attacks to meet Thailand at 23-23 and from then on, Onuma fought a hard duel with Liu with their attacks. The host side fared better to win the hotly-contested set 27-25.

Their confidence boosted after one-set win, Thailand started confidently in the fourth set to lead 8-5 at the first technical timeout and widened it to 15-11, thanks to their gutsy display. The on-going battle turned out to be a “catch-me-if-you-can” game as China were hot on the Thais’ heels. However, though challenged seriously by the visitors, the host side still performed well above all expectation and they won 25-22, forcing the Chinese to play tie-breaker.

In the decider, China remained in awesome form to seize the 12-8 lead. Thailand tried to respond with combination attacks but their attempt swung the momentum back in the Chinese favour. Liu’s deadly spike steered China to 14-9 lead and the visitors allowed Thailand only one more point to capture the set 15-10, match and a final berth.

“It was a close match of two strong teams which entertained the audience inside the venue with their excellent form. Also, Thailand are an experienced team and we could not cope with their tactics. That’s why we played them in five sets. It’s good that we can learn from each other. I think my players did a good job in defence and attacks in particular. In our final showdown against Japan, we will make every effort to beat them for the title,” China head coach Shi Hairong commented after the win.


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