[VOLLEYBALL] Thailand found World Cup champions and world No.2 China too strong to go down in comfortable straight sets 14-25 20-25 23-25 in the Sunday’s final showdown of the Montreux Volley Masters in Switzerland, claiming consolation silver m
Thailand, current world No.13 and bronze medallists at the 2015 Asian Championship and the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, fielded a strong line-up which stunned European silver medallists the Netherlands in the semi-finals the previous day. Superstar spiker Pleumjit Thinkaow and hard-attacking Ajcharaporn Kongyot were the spearheads of the Thai squad.
The Asian powerhouses China, which took silver medal at the 2014 World Championship and had already captured the Montreux Volley Masters for five times in 1990, 2000, 2003, 2007 and 2010, were also strong with the likes of Hui Ruoqi and four players competing in the China’s World Cup-winning team comprising Wei Qiuyue, Zhang Xiaoya, Yang Jungjing and Liu Xiaotong.
China came up in full strength to snatch the first set without much trouble 25-14, using their height advantage for effective blocks and devastating attacks. The much stronger Chinese still took commands in the second set, which they won 25-20 to stretch the lead to 2-0.
Playing with their backs against the wall in the third set, Thailand gave it all-out, with Ajcharaporn stretching her hand to smash her way. As Thailand closed the margin 23-23, China found their touch in the final assault to score two straight points for the 25-23 win in the hard-fought set, and match.
Despite the loss, Thailand won hearts of all with their gutsy performance and never-say-die attitude, especially when they made history to stun title-holders Turkey for the first time ever aside from taking part in this top-flight tournament for the first time, but could make it to the final showdown with unbeaten record.
During the awards presentation, Thailand claimed silver medal for the second-place finish. Individually, Nootsara Tomkom took the Best Setter award, while Ajcharaporn Kongyot won the Best Wing Spiker, Hattaya Bamrungsuk the Best Middle Blocker and Piyanut Pannoy the Best Libero Player.
Thailand now will leave Montreux, Switzerland for Ningbo, China to start their new campaign in the FIVB World Grand Prix Group 1 clash, which features the world’s 12 strong teams to play in three-week preliminary rounds. At the end of the preliminaries, only top five teams plus hosts Thailand will make the cut for the World Grand Prix Final at Hua Mark Indoor Stadium, Bangkok from July 6-10.
In terms of their preliminaries in the World Grand Prix, Thailand will join the USA, Germany and hosts China in Pool A in Ningbo, China between June 10 and 12. The Thai team will next leave for Bari, Italy for Pool F event against hosts Italy, Russia and the Netherlands from June 17 to 19.
The Thailand’s last stop from June 24 to 26 will be in Pool I in Kyoto, Japan, where the Thai team will take on Russia, hosts Japan and Serbia.