Chongqing, China, March 12, 2017 – Hosts China struggled to beat Korea in the semifinals of the SMM 11th Asian Girls’ U18 Volleyball Championship on Sunday but prevailed in five sets to set up a showdown against defending champions Japan.
More than 2,000 home fans turned out on Sunday to support their team in a do-or-die battle against Korea, the team they had beaten in straight sets in the third-place playoff at the previous edition in Thailand in 2014. After losing the first two sets, China recovered to win 3-2 (19-25, 14-25, 25-23, 25-19, 15-13) in a gruelling 120-minute encounter.
In the final, the Chinese will take on Japan, who sent Thailand packing 3-0 (25-8, 25-12, 25-19).
In the first set of the Korea-China match, an even start gave way to a string of unforced errors by China. The sloppy play continued into the second set and the Chinese were quickly 0-2 behind.
The cheers and screams of the home fans awakened the sleeping dragon in the third set as China resisted barrages of aggressive Korean attacks and held on to win a close third set 25-23. Korea got into a flap in the fourth set as their game was riddled with errors. They fell from 14-15 to 14-22, allowing China to snare the set.
In the decider, China and Korea went all-out. China earned matchpoint at 14-13 and then a kill by Sun Xiaoxuan, her 19th point, earned China their place in the final.
Lee Juah scored a match-high 22 points for Korea.
“In the first two sets, my girls did not play well,” said China’s coach Xu Jiande. “They were not good at blocking and receiving. They have to improve markedly and play much better in the next game.”
With good defence that set up a steady flow of ammunition for their spikers to attack, reigning champions Japan overwhelmed Thailand 3-0 (25-8, 25-12, 25-19) in the semifinals. Japan has yet to drop a set in the competition.
Japan scored 41 points through their powerful spikes and seven more from ace serves compared to 21 spikes and no ace serves from Thailand.
Yuri Takayanagi led Japan with a match-high 15 points, followed by Haruna Soga with 13 points. Chularak Nuanboribun contributed nine points for Thailand.
In the other two encounters, Oceania neighbours Australia and New Zealand went down to Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong, respectively. Australia committed 37 errors as they lost 3-0 (25-14, 25-15, 25-17).
“Chinese Taipei performed quite well. We were a little disappointed that we could not control the ball well against them,” said Australia coach Boris Georgieff.
Captain Yick Wingsum had another prolific scoring run with 24 points to help Hong Kong take a 3-1 (23-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-14) triumph over New Zealand.
The 11th Asian Girls’ U18 Volleyball Championship will conclude on Monday when China and Japan will meet in the final for the sixth time. In the previous five finals between them, China claimed two wins and Japan three.
Thailand and Korea will battle it out for the third place. Hong Kong will fight for fifth position in a playoff match against Chinese Taipei, with New Zealand and Australia contesting an all-Oceania battle in the eighth-place playoff.