Published on September 12, 2007
It looked all over for Thailand when they were staring defeat in the face at the hands of South Korea in the 14th Asian Senior Women's Volleyball Championship yesterday. But the troops rallied to score a magnificent 3-2 victory to confound their supporters and critics alike.
With just two matches against Japan and China remaining, unbeaten Thailand are assured of at least third place in the tournament - besides securing berths to the World Cup in November, the World Grand Prix and the World Olympic Qualification Tournament in Japan in May.
The Thais, who finished a disappointing sixth in the previous edition in Taicang, China, two years ago, are on a remarkable run, defeating Australia, Taiwan, Kazakhstan and Vietnam.
The team's scintillating come-from-behind 22-25 20-25 25-17 25-20 15-13 victory over Korea gave the hosts another chance to compete in the World Cup. Thailand took part in the tournament seven years ago as an invitee and finished 11th out of the 12 teams participating.
The Koreans came out with deceptive mid-court drops through Han Yoo-mi and star spiker Kim Min-ji, who led the team with 25 points including 24 kills from 51 attempts, to win the hard-fought first set 25-22. The visitors silenced the cheering Thai supporters packing the MCC Hall inside The Mall with their tactics and defensive and attacking
skills to snatch the second set 25-20.
Korea, No 11 in the world rankings and fifth in last year's Doha Asian Games, took command briefly in the third set. But Thailand regained their composure and stormed back with explosive serves and the kills of Onuma Sitthirak and Pluemjitr Thinkaow to win the set 25-20 and continued their domination in the fourth, which they won 25-17.
In the heart-pounding decider, both sides poured everything into it as the lead changed several times. The Thai women had captured the hearts of the boisterous fans with a truly gutsy display, and their determination paid off when they won the thrilling set 15-13. The players jumped for joy as Thai officials hugged one another to the screams and applause of the fans, many of whom were in tears.
With their stunning win, Thailand are assured of finishing third in the championship, a placing which they also achieved in 2001 and 2003.
"My girls were nervous in the first two sets just because they badly wanted to win the match.
"They were prone to unforced errors in serving and spiking. We missed too many scoring chances. Fortunately, we got a tremendous boost from the local fans and the girls raised their game several notches," said Thai head coach Nutthapol Srisamutnak.
"The gods were quite kind to us. We are happy to beat Korea once again after the Doha Asiad," he said.
Elsewhere, Olympic champs China crushed Australia 3-0 (25-5 25-15 25-15) and undefeated Japan tamed Taiwan 3-0 (25-12 25-16 25-20). Sri Lanka outclassed New Zealand 3-2 (18-25 27-25 21-25 25-16 15-13) and Indonesia brushed aside Iran 3-0 (25-14 25-19 26-24). Kazakhstan were to take on Vietnam in yesterday's late match.