Former two-time Asian champions Thailand, playing without two keys players Onuma Sittirak and Malika Kanthong, went down in hard-fought five sets 25-21 25-19 22-25 23-25 7-15 to South Korea in the Korea-Thailand Pro Volleyball All-Star Super Match at the Hua Mark Indoor Stadium on Saturday.
Although the loss did not bode well for Thailand’s preparation for the next week’s Montreux Volley Masters in Switzerland, where the Thai spikers will be pitted against strong teams including the Rio Games champions China and the World Grand Prix winners Brazil, the fun-packed competition drew much attention from local enthusiasts who thronged into the venue since noon. The tickets priced at Bt400, Bt600, Bt800 were also sold out just minutes away after the opening of the advanced ticket booking.
World No.14 Thailand were powered by veterans Wilavan Apinyapong, Pleumjit Thinkaow, setter Nootsara Tomkom and libero Wanna Buakaew and strengthened by young talents Chatchu-on Moksri and Pimpichaya Kokram, while smashing machine Kim Yeon-Koung was the spearhead of the visiting team.
As many key players in the Thai squad including Wilavan, Chatchu-on and Ajcharaporn Kongyot are playing in the Supreme Chonburi E-Tech Club, which a few days ago captured the Asian Women’s Club Championship in Kazakhstan, the Korean side were led by V-League champions IBK Industrial Bank of Korea’s coach, Lee Jung-Chul.
After going down the first two sets 21-25 19-25, the Koreans put their acts together and hit back with deadly attacks from Kim Yeon-Koung and their solid blocks to win the next two sets 25-22 25-23. The tie-breaker saw the visitors lead from start to finish for the scintillating 15-7 win.
The one-day event was aimed at promoting volleyball in Asia aside from expanding their markets for domestic leagues in both countries.
On Sunday night, the Thailand women’s national volleyball team will leave for Montreux, Switzerland for the Montreux Volley Masters between June 6 and 11.