In-form Toray Arrows of Japan stunned reigning and three-time champions Chang in a hard-fought five-set thriller in the 16th Princess Cup Asian Women's Club Volleyball Championship at The Mall Nakhon Ratchasima's MCC Hall.
Contesting in the round-robin preliminaries in Pool B in a late Saturday night match, Thailand’s Chang, who claimed their Asian Club title at home in 2009 when they played under the Federbrau’s banner, went down to the well-established Toray Arrows 25-27 21-25 25-14 25-21 11-15 in a gruelling 117 minutes.
Toray Arrows, champions at this year’s Japan V-Premier League, got off to a flying start, with hard-hitting Arisa Takada and powerful Saki Minemura gelling into a splendid offensive combination. Chang, cheered on by more than 3,700 spectators packing the venue, stormed back with full force after losing the first two sets 25-27 21-25 to take the next two 25-14 25-21.
Aggressive Malika Kanthong and Wilavan Apinyapong helped Chang lead the spirited visitors briefly 5-2 in the do-or-die tie-breaker. However, the Japanese showed their never-say-die spirit. They regrouped and counter-attacked well to catch the host side at 8 and stormed on to clinch the deciding set 15-11 and the marathon battle.
Malika Kanthong scored 24 massive points for Chang, while Arisa Takada top scored for Toray Arrows with 22 points.
The winners Toray Arrows collected two points and Chang claimed one.
After the match, Chang’s head coach Kiattipong Radchatagriengkai said, “Win or lose is just a normal matter despite the fact that what every participating team needs is a win. I admire the team spirit of both sides. It was a good match. However, my players still made a few mistakes, especially in receiving and distributing the ball.
“We fielded some young players in this match with an aim of giving them a chance to sharpen their skills. Our new setter Pornpun Guedpard has done her job very well. She will be a dominant force for Thailand to be reckoned with in the near future.
“Our remaining three matches in the preliminaries should not be this difficult. It’s possible that finally, we will battle it out against Tianjin Bridgestone for a place in the final,” Kiattipong said.
The host team had a rest day yesterday.
Meanwhile, Iran’s Gitipasand handed Asia World VC their second loss in the tournament by crushing their Burmese counterparts in straight sets 25-23 25-11 25-16. The other match saw former three-time champions Tianjin Bridgestone mercilessly crush Malaysia’s Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet in a comfortable three sets 25-12 25-5 25-4. Japan’s Toray Arrows were due to take on Vietnam’s VTV Binh Dien Long An in a late-night match.