More than 3,000 spectators packed the competition venue to watch the thrilling Thailand – Korea encounter to decide the Pool E winners. Both teams remained unbeaten, with the host team yet losing a set to their respective rivals in the pool round-robin preliminaries.
The host girls got off to a promising start in the first set. Ajcharaporn Kongyot, who joined the Thailand’s national senior team to capture the maiden AVC Cup title for the first time, became the team’s mainstay to penetrate the Korean defence with her thundering cross-court spikes. Thailand took the hard-fought set 25-20.
Conceding one set, Korea counter-attacked well, with Shin Yeon-Gyeong, Lee Jae-Yeong and An Hye-Ri attacking aggressively. Though cheered by the nerve-wracking, drum-beating, screaming home crowds, Thailand lost their touch in the final assault to go down a close battle 24-26.
Terrific Ajcharaporn was the Thailand’s comeback in the third set when she uncorked a series of devastating spikes to help her team capture the pole position 17-14. However, the formidable visitors tightened their defence, allowing the hosts tough times scoring.
Thai head coach Nataphon Srisamutnak asked for time-outs to improve his team’s erratic form. His intention worked out pretty well when the host side gradually pulled their game together. Kuttika Kaewpin stretched her hands to tear the Korean defence apart with her lightning-fast spikes to lift Thailand the 25-23 victory in the very closely-contested set.
Their confidence boosted during the 2-1 advantage, Thailand came up with more aggressions in the fourth set, while Korea became more prone with unforced attacking mistakes. The host team won the comfortable set 25-13 and the exhausting 103-minute battle.
Ajcharaporn Kongyot led Thailand with 20 points including 15 ace spikes, while team-mate Kuttika Kaewpin did likewise with 15 points from deadly attacks. Lee Jae-Yeong topscored 18 points for Korea.
“Our first-ball reception still did not live up to staff coaches’ expectation in this match. We have a problem on combination between setter and spikers and require an immediate improvement to play our next matches. Fortunately, we played with a variety which proved a great asset for our win in this match,” Thailand’s head coach Nataphon Srisamutnak commented after the match.
“As far as I’m concerned, we have to improve our tactics on how to play taller rivals. Many players in my team played with a lack of confidence and had much pressure taking on taller and stronger rivals.”
Actually, we had a chance to win the second set, but as we could not maintain concentration, we finally lost the set.
“We next take on India. I think it should be an easier task than facing Japan. If possible, I would like my team to challenge China in the showdown. We will try to make history with our young team after our senior side did in the recent AVC Cup with win over China in the final match,” added Nataphon, who assisted head coach Kiattipong Radchatagriengkai in the Thailand’s national senior women’s squad.
Read more news from Asian Junior Women’s Championship here