[VOLLEYBALL] Due to the presence of strong teams in the World Women's Junior Volleyball Championship in Nakhon Ratchasima between July 20 and 27, hopes of the host nation in the top-flight competition cannot be that high, but they are still intensively preparing for the event and try to get better results.
Assistant coach Sanong Kulchim, commenting in a recent exclusive interview in place of head coach Banjong Somwang, admitted that his girls will have a crunch time in the star-studded tournament.
"It will be tough for my girls. This is not Asian competition, but the World Championship. The world's top teams gather here to battle it out for the world crown and only the best team of the cream can fulfill such a dream," said Sanong in a relaxed manner.
Thailand made its debut attempt in the biennial tournament in 1995 when the Thai squad finished a dismal 13th in the 16-team world meet in Bangkok. In 2003, they improved their fortunes to finish ninth in Suphan Buri, again on home soil.
"I think that if my girls fight it all out and can win some tough matches, they have a better chance of improving our luck this time. For our team, finishing either 7th or 8th in Nakhon Ratchasima is beyond our expectation since we are playing the world's best 11 teams," he cited.
A total of 14 young talents in the Thai squad have been training intensively in Nakhon Ratchasima since early June. A selection trial for the last 12 players in the team for the July 20-27 world meet will soon be held.
"My girls recently played the other Thai team, which are training in their final preparation for the July 9-15 Asean Students Volleyball Tournament in Malaysia. My team beat the Asean Students side, which have the average age as our my girls', 4-1 in a warm-up five-set match.
"After the national senior team return from Vietnam, where they took part in the Asian Women's Club Championship, we, all staff coach, will give our girls a chance to take on the senior team to check how far they have made in their final preparation for the world meet."
Thailand are in Group A against China, the USA, Egypt, Germany and Dominican Republic, while Group B comprise Brazil, Italy, Japan, Ukraine, Croatia and Puerto Rico.
"In our group, I think Egypt is a team we can match competitively, while China is likely to be the strongest. The other group is much tougher, with defending champs Brazil, Japan and Italy vying for the Group winners," Sanong commented.
"Since we have to play much taller rivals in the world meet, we have to train much harder, emphasizing teamwork, triple blocking and mid-court or baseline spiking to avoid blocks by the taller rivals. For my team, winning a few matches in the group preliminaries is a great success.
"If we are training for the Asia-level competition, I think we are now more than 90 per cent ready. However, this is the world championship and our preparation is now just 80 per cent. We still have more tactics to learn in an effort of achieving the better result in the world meet," he concluded.