Dominican Republic stunned Thailand and boisterous fans with a fantastic comeback 3-2 (17-25 25-21 24-26 25-21 15-7) victory in the 2017 FIVB World Grand Prix Preliminary Pool H match to keep their hopes of advancing to the Nanjing Finals alive.
Mambru Casilla topscored with 25 points for Dominican Republic including 20 kills and 5 aces, while Elizabeth Martinez contributed 19 points. Chutchu-on led Thailand with 23 points from 16 attacks and 5 aces.
With the win, Dominican Republic have so far collected 11 points from 4 wins against 3 losses to brighten their chances of playing in the World Grand Prix Finals in Nanjing, China from August 2 to 6, while Thailand have already shattered their dreams of advancing to the Finals despite the fact that they still have two more matches against Turkey on Saturday and Italy the following day.
Thailand, cheered on by nerve-wracking screams and drum-beating crowds inside the venue, fielded the similar line-up which stunned defending and 11-time champions Brazil in Sendai, Japan last week. Powered by fast attacker Pleumjit Thinkaow and hard-attacking Ajcharaporn Kongyot, Thailand delighted home fans with the convincing 25-17 win in the opening set.
With their morale boosted following the first-set triumph, Thailand remained in good form in the second set, while Dominican Republic gradually pulled their game together. Victoria Valdez, who stands 196cm tall, used her height advantage in hitting sharp wings attacks to help her team take the set 25-21.
The third set was closely-contested as both sides fought hard to win the set, but the Thai team proved steadier at the final assault. Levelling at 24-24, Thailand played confidently and consistently to grab both points for the hard-fought 26-24 win.
In the fourth set, Dominican Republic silenced the cheering home crowds with fierce attacks from Gina Altagracia Mambru Casilla and Victoria Valdez to win 25-21 for a thrilling 2-2 tie.
The Dominicans gained the upper hand initially in the decider and went on their aggression and kill blocks to capture the set 15-7 and match.
Marcos Kwiek, coach of Dominican Republic: "It is great to win, but it was very difficult for us to play against Thailand. They have a lot of fans to support them and played really well today, with good serves. We still had problems with our service reception.”
Danai Sriwacharamaytakul, coach of Thailand: “It was hard for the Dominicans to play in front of our big fans. After they got used to the atmosphere, they came out with good serving and we could not play according to our game plan. I have to admit that their blocks and defence were really good. It was very difficult for us to earn points. But I would also like to admire my players for showing their good fighting spirit. For them it is a good experience to play against a tall team with good serving. Of course, it is not going to be an easy match against Turkey tomorrow. They are a strong team and we have to serve very well to put pressure them under pressure. If not, it is going to be very difficult for us. It will be easier if we can adjust our service reception.”
Pleumjit Thinkaow, captain of Thailand: "It was such an exhausting match for us. In the deciding set, they put pressure on us with their aggressive serves, which made us lose too many points and we could not catch up with them. Today our service reception did not work well, so we could not make our combination plays. What a pity! We will learn from today’s mistakes and try to play better in the next match against Turkey.”
Earlier, Italy overcame a serious threat from Turkey to win a close four-set battle 25-17 20-25 25-21 32-20.
On Saturday, Italy take on Dominican Republic at 3pm local time, while Thailand play Turkey at 6pm.