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Spikers face up to daunting World Grand Prix Finals

The Thailand women's volleyball team left for Ningbo, China late last night for the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals, hoping to improve their fortunes in the top-flight tournament following their maiden appearance last year.

The USA, Turkey, Thailand, Brazil and Cuba, the top five teams from the threeweekend preliminaries of the world's premier volleyball tournament, plus hosts China made the cut for the Finals, which run from tomorrow to July 1 at the Bailun Sports and Arts Centre.

World No 12 Thailand face an opener against highflying Turkey tomorrow.

The Thais next go up against the reigning twotime champions and World No 1 USA, to whom they lost a onesided battle on Sunday in Bangkok.

They then play hosts and Asian champions China, Olympic champs Brazil and the formidable Cuba. The Cubans are the only team in the tournament that Thailand have beaten twice, notching up their second win in last month's World Olympic Qualification Tournament in Tokyo.

The team with most points at the end of the single roundrobin tournament will be crowned champions and claim the US$200,000 (Bt6.37 million) prize money, with respective runnersup taking home $100,000, $75,000, $55,000, $40,000 and $30,000. Cash prizes are also on offer for individual awards.

On the Thai team's chances in the Finals, head coach Kiattipong Radchatagriengkai said, "We have already had success with our victory against European winners Serbia on Saturday at the World Grand Prix to win a berth for the Finals.

"In Ningbo, we will play the world's best teams. Certainly, it will be a tough mission. Cuba are the only outfit [at the Finals] we beat last month, while Turkey are a team we have never played before. We will have to be at our best in those daunting matches. However, I hope our young players will have a chance to gain experience and exposure."

Thailand will be aiming to improve on their sixthplace finish last year.


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