Nakhon Pathom - Kim Yeonkoung and Kim Heejin scored a match-high 15 points apiece to lead Korea to a convincing 25-22 25-16 25-21 victory over hosts Thailand for a clean sweep in Pool B at the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Asian Qualifiers on Sunday.
Kim Yeonkoung charted 15 points including 14 attacks from 36 attempts, while Kim Heejin also scored 15 points from 11 attacks, 1 block and 3 aces. Kim Yuri added 8 points including 4 blocks.
The sensational victory was a sweet revenge for Korea, which went down in straight sets to Thailand in the semi-finals of the last month’s Asian Senior Women’s Championship in Philippines.
Both sides have already qualified for the 2018 Women’s World Championship and battled it out on Sunday to vie for the top honour in Pool B.
World No.10 Korea took command from the very beginning of the opening set to lead 7-2. Chatchu-on Moksri and Pleumjit Thinkaow unleashed powerful attacks to help the host side catch up with the formidable Koreans at 9-all. From then, Kim Yeonkoung and Lee Jaeyeong overcame the Thai defence with their mighty attacks as Thai blockers tried to jam the path of the Korean attacks, but their attempts did not last long. Korea captured the thrilling first set 25-22.
Korea remained solid in their defence to race to a 15-6 lead in the second set, but the host side did not want to surrender easily as they regrouped and hit back to reduce the gap 15-20. However, Korea performed brilliantly both on defence and offence, foiling the Thailand’s fightback efforts, thanks to prolific Kim Yeonkoung’s exceptional attacking ability. Kim steered Korea to a comfortable 25-16 win in the set.
In the third set, the Korean defence proved impenetrable, leaving a little room for the host side to score easily. The devastating Korea led 12-7, with Kim Yeonkoung silencing the cheering home fans packing the competition venue with her fierce attacks. The embattled Thais tried hard to counter-attack, but the fired-up Koreans proved too strong for the determined host side. Korea captured the set 25-21 and match.
After the final clash on Sunday, Korea head coach Hong Sungjiin said, “After we lost to Thailand at the Asian Championship in Philippines, we trained hard, hoping to improve on our receiving and serving. As a result, we played well in this tournament including a win over hosts Thailand. In fact, our setter and attackers had bad communications among them. We then trained harder to improve our teamwork and communications. It worked impressively in this tournament. From now, we have to train much harder in our good preparation for the next year’s World Championship. As for Kim Yeonkoung, I think she keeps herself fit physically and mentally and of course, she can be a major force of Korea at the 2020 Olympics in Japan.”
Thailand head coach Danai Sriwacharamaytakul commented on the match: “Korea performed exceptionally well today. They served well and also won several points on their turnovers. We tried to change our tactics by making use of the players rotation, but our efforts were still in vain.”