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AVC U23 Day 6 Roundup: The Home Stretch

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We’re now getting to the juicy part of the tournament where the elite teams remain, to slug it out and battle for podium finishes. Not to mention, the classification matches promise to be slobber-knockers with evenly matched teams set to battle for fifth through eighth place.

Here is a recap through all the matches from Day 6 of the AVC U23 Women’s Volleyball tournament and a preview the future matches for each team.

Match 1: Macau sweeps Maldives 25-20, 25-11, 25-19.

 
Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times AVC U23 Day 6 Roundup: The Home Stretch
Motivational hyperboles from Coach Roger aside, these two teams were the least experienced and most vertically challenged participants in the tournament. Macau just struggled less with gravity in this match to down Maldives, which ranked them at 11th place.

But there are a few bright spots for Maldives in this match:
– They finally scored enough total points (50) to win a set.
– They had a player tally more than 10 points (Areesha, 13).
– Someone blocked a hit for them. This was huge for Maldives since most of their of players couldn’t even reach the tape of the net.

They may not be world-beaters in this sport, but at least they live in a tropical paradise.

Match 2: Japan zooms past India 25-17, 25-17, 25-14.

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times AVC U23 Day 6 Roundup: The Home Stretch

Japan had the easiest route to the Top 4 out of all its companions. Only having one competitive match, a four-setter against Taipei, their other matches against severely less-experienced foes was a walk in the park. As a direct result, Japan had the privilege to be practical with their rotation to field any of their players knowing that they’ll still have an edge against the lower ranked teams.

Japan has started a different lineup in each set they’ve played for the past three games, and each of those lineups produced solid numbers. They’ve had six different players score in double digits for them throughout the tournament, and none of their players have played an entire match without spending time on the bench. Needless to say, Japan’s balanced lineup makes them a headache to prepare for. However, their tournament-long cruise ends with India as Thailand now stands in their way of making the Gold Medal match.

India, meanwhile, have surprised a lot of their foes with just their uncanny athleticism. They have powerful wing hitters and skilled blockers that have shown great lateral quickness when patrolling the net. Their only problem has been limiting their errors and controlling loaded serves as seen in this match against Japan. They surrendered 27 errors and had a horrendous 26% excellent reception percentage. Still, the Indians are a huge threat to take fifth place in this tournament should they manage to tone their errors down in the final two days of the tournament.

Match 3: Korea nips Chinese Taipei 16-25, 25-17, 23-25, 25-14, 15-10.

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times AVC U23 Day 6 Roundup: The Home Stretch
If there’s a team that embodies the word feisty, it’s Taipei. They’re floor defense alone has nearly caused two top teams to tap out and they seem to have a penchant for keeping rallies alive. They won two tough sets against Korea. But, just as they did in their losses, their opponents merely powered through their scheme.

The Koreans derive most of their firepower from their outside hitters. Open hitter, Lee Soyoung has been undeniably the tournament’s best player, leading Korea in scoring as well as fortifying the back row whenever she rotates there. Soyoung dropped another impressive stat line of 29 points, 10 digs, and nine excellent receptions in their win against Taipei, literally carrying her team over dry spells throughout the match. Korea’s outstanding cast of outside hitters also includes: open hitters Ha Hyejin and Yerim Go, and opposite spiker, An Hyeri. The Koreans shuffle through these four, riding on who has the hot hand each match.

Those four almost overpowered the tough Chinese blocking just a few days ago, but China was able to adjust and take the match in five sets. Korea needs that same level of offensive explosion to overcome China’s Great Wall of blockers. Containing China’s best offensive player, Liu Yanhan, should be an adventure for Korea’s spotty blocking; so look for Yanhan to replicate her 37 point outing from their initial match-up.

Taipei, meanwhile, faces the Philippines later in a rematch of Tuesday’s much talked about match. Interestingly enough, Taipei’s hitters were off their game against the Philippines as they struggled to produce points. Their defense and serving, though, were still on-point to force the Philippines into multiple errors and miscues during receptions.

Taipei will be eager to prove that they should not have lost a set to the Philippines, a caveat the locals should be able to take full advantage of, if they keep their cool and limit their mistakes. The Philippines showed that they could dole out enough points from attacks to take down some of the best competition in the tournament. Don’t be surprised if either of these teams finishes fifth overall in the tournament.

Match 5: THA obliterates IRI 27-29, 25-19, 25-8, 25-13.

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times AVC U23 Day 6 Roundup: The Home Stretch
The past few matches have been underwhelming for the World-ranked Thailand team. They were supposed to be blowing weaker teams out of the water and stand point-for-point with the elite teams.

After the first set against Iran, it seemed Thailand was set for another meltdown. Fortunately for the Thais, something snapped in during the last three sets and they just outplayed Iran in every way they can. The Thais’ signature free-wheeling, fast paced style resurfaced, and the Iranians just didn’t have the tools to keep up. Their brilliant play just sucked the will to fight out of the Iranians.

Judging through the old eye-test, one won’t be overwhelmed with the Thais’ stature, but Thailand employs incredible athletes at every position. All their players seem to go from 0 to 60 in two seconds and can jump a full foot over blockers.

At their peak, they just run and jump opponents out of the building. Against Japan later today, it should be interesting to see how each team deals with the opponent’s strengths. The Japanese bring their endemic discipline in life to how they play volleyball. Japan’s defensive patterns are rock solid and they have funky ways of producing points off set plays due to their high-level service reception.

Thailand is going to need to pound away at Japan’s defense in anyway they can. Their blockers also have to be proactive in snuffing out Japan’s offensive game plan to succeed.

To conclude: No matter how the matches will turn out today, we will be in for quite a pair of medal games tomorrow.

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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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