Thailand beat Serbia 3-1 to all but assure themselves of a place in the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals in Ningbo, China, for the first time.
Playing in front of the capacity crowd of 6,000, the hosts continued their terrific recent form, winning seven out of the eight matches they played in Grand Prix series.
The victory in their second match in Pool J of FIVB Grand Prix means that Thailand are likely to qualify as one of the five teams in the Grand Prix Finals. Thailand play the US today while Serbia take on Argentina in the last match of the group.
Earlier in Luohe, China, China remained unbeaten in the FIVB World League but were pushed hard by Cuba, who dropped their second five-setter in a row. Unbeaten China prevailed 22-25 25-16 25-22 23-25 15-9 in an hour and 52 minutes. The scoreline meant the Chinese dropped their first point in the competition and they are now a point behind USA at the top of the standings. Both teams are 8-0.
China’s Zeng Chunlei was the top scorer in the match with 22 points, while Hui Ruoqi had 19 and Xu Yunli 18. Yanelis Santos was the top scorer for Cuba with 20 points, followed by Yoana Palacios with 18. China had 15 service points to Cuba’s eight and edged the blocking category 12-11, with Xu earning seven blocking points.
In the first set, China got off to a slow start. After the second technical time-out, China got their game back and used their service and counter-attack to lead 19-18. It was all-square at 22, but superior defence by Cuba allowed the Caribbean side to take the first set.
In the second set, China fell behind 3-1 before Cuban errors allowed them to get back to parity. China went ahead and Fan Linlin’s service brought setpoint. A block by Xu then drew China level at 1-1.
The beginning of the third set was identical to that of the second before China went on a five-point run. Cuba continued to fight before more good blocking helped put China 2-1 up.
Cuba had the edge over China at two crucial moments in the fourth set and the match went to a tie-breaker. In the determining set, China streaked out to a 6-0 lead and never looked back.