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AVC U23 Day 3 Roundup: Thailand-Korea put on a show

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While you might have been caught up with the Fight of the Century or a certain Game 7 yesterday, the rest of the AVC U23 pool cobbled together quite an exciting day of volleyball for the very few fans that paid attention. Though the Nationals didn’t play that day, the games certainly had an effect on their fate for the rest of the tournament. Let’s run yesterday’s action:

Match 1: Fuming Chinese Taipei dispatches Maldives 25-8, 25-8, 25-4

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times AVC U23 Day 3 Roundup: Thailand-Korea put on a show
Maldives is at a very early stage in developing their sports program, and it showed when Chinese Taipei barely broke a sweat against them; basically falling backwards into the Top 8. Taipei was spent from their slobber-knocker of a match-up against Japan in the previous day, as it showed in their 15 errors. Luckily for Taipei, Maldives derived only five points from their offense. The match didn’t even last an hour.

The win, placed Taipei firmly in second place of Group C, and are now grouped in Pool E along with the Philippines, Iran, and Japan in the classification phase of the Top 8. Taipei, along with Japan, have been a perennial presence in Asian Tournaments, while the Philippines and Iran have only begun to get their feet wet in the international scene.

Scoring against Taipei has been quite an adventure, as their floor and net defense can get borderline annoying at times. Along with their players who can score proficiently from anywhere on the court. Taipei is favored to place second in the group though if a team can make their defense work, their fiery defense might wear down late in sets as it did against Japan.

Match 2: Iran clinches top spot in Pool A with thrilling win over Kazakhstan 25-20, 18-25, 25-19, 14-25, 15-13

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times AVC U23 Day 3 Roundup: Thailand-Korea put on a show

Iran only needed to win two sets to move on to the Top 8, in order to limit the match points Kazakhstan could accumulate should they have won. So when they got their second set victory, there was a noticeable drop in their effort when they started to cough up errors.

Kazakhstan, meanwhile, looked tired the entire match. Among them was their best player and Senior’s Team mainstay, Yana Yagodina, who barely scored in the first three sets. Kudos to Kazakhstan for pushing the match to a fifth set, and trying to get a moral victory in front of a local crowd that was egging on them the entire match. They even had the lead in the fifth set, 13-11, wherein Iran called a timeout that changed the complexity of the set. Iran won the last four points of the match to the delight of a small group of Iran Nationals.

Kazakhstan could have definitely done better in the tournament, but injuries and the need to adjust to the local climate hampered their chances. Iran, on the other hand, came out of arguably the toughest pool in the tournament, unscathed. However, tougher challenges await them in the following rounds, where some of Asia’s best teams lie waiting.

Match 3: China stone-walls Macau 25-12, 25-13, 25-11

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times AVC U23 Day 3 Roundup: Thailand-Korea put on a show
Out of all the Asian powerhouses, China got the luckiest draw with their poolmates as they’ve been breezing past this first classification round. They haven’t really shown the full power of their World no. 1 ranked lineup due to their constant shuffling of players, to prevent fatigue and being scouted by the competition.

Which, in looking at the bigger tournament picture, is a great call from their coaches as their Group in the Top 8 – Group F – presents incredibly tough challenges, as they will now have to face Korea today, then Thailand tomorrow. It will be exciting to see how China plays the tougher teams in the tournament as team officials and media people alike haven’t got a good feel for just how good their roster is.

Match 4: Thailand overcomes Korea 25-18, 25-17, 22-25, 20-25, 15-11

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times AVC U23 Day 3 Roundup: Thailand-Korea put on a show

Thailand almost let this match out of their grasp, but like their signature curry, Thailand’s extra spicy kick hit Korea right at the end of the match.

Thailand’s blocking was emphatic, netting them 14 block kills off 102 attempts. All of Thailand’s players were incredibly athletic and worked hard in stopping Korea’s powerful open hitters. Moreover, Thailand executed impeccably in the first two sets, but got noticeably worn down in the next two as Korea adjusted their sets.

Korea consciously gave their opposite hitter, An Hyeri more touches, so Thailand’s blockers had to spread out more and avoid Thailand’s own opposite hitter, Moksri Chatchu-on, who was stopping Korea’s open hitters early in the match. That adjustment worked splendidly as it kept Korea’s offense dynamic while wearing out Thailand’s defense. The Thais were left scrambling for options, but their substitutes couldn’t quell the Korean pressure.

By the fifth set, Thailand opted to re-position their best hitter, Kongyot Ajcharaporn, in the opposite hitter slot, which rejuvenated Thailand’s defense and offensive attack and ultimately winning them the match.

Thailand’s vaunted blocking and relentless coverage also forced Korean attackers to over-compensate and divvy up errors, as the Koreans amassed 31 unforced errors; Thailand had just 17 in five sets! Although, you have to feel the Koreans, who were almost killing themselves to keep the ball alive, but Thailand just played too athletic for them to handle. Thailand finished with four players in double figures, while dealing with a gallant effort from open hitter, Lee Soyoung, who had one of the best volleyball stat lines ever with 21 points, 10 digs, and 27 excellent receptions.

Thailand and Korea are now with India and China in Group F in the Top 8 Classification phase of the tournament. Your sights should be set on the Philippines’ group for the next two days, as this group should produce some of the tournament’s best matches.

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Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball - from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado's setting.

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