China entitled AVC Women’s Cup
Powerhouses China proved too strong for Kazakhstan to demolish the old foes 25-19 25-19 25-13 in a pulsating final showdown to successfully defend their crown at the “SMM” 5th AVC Cup for Women at the Vinh Phuc Gymnasium here on Tuesday.
The scintillating win was a sweet revenge for the disappointing 2-3 loss to Kazakhstan in their pool preliminaries earlier and also stretched the China’s domination in the biennial top-flight tournament to four times. China captured their first AVC Cup title in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand in 2008 and repeated the feat at home in Taicang in 2010. The Chinese lost their title to Thailand in the 2012 edition in Almaty, Kazakhstan and reclaimed their crown in 2014 on home soil in Shenzhen.
Against the up-and-coming Kazakhstan, successive two-time bronze medallists, China fielded a formidable line-up led by the 193cm-tall Zhang Changing and Gong Xiaoyu, both of whom competed in the gold-winning China at the last month’s Rio Olympic Games. Also strengthening the indomitable giants were powerful attacker Li Jing, Yang Zhou and Zheng Yixin.
Kazakhstan sent strong starters led by ace spiker Katerina Tatko, Yekaterina Zhdanova and Kristina Anikonova.
Terrific Zhang and Yang unleashed a barrage of sharp attacks to help China set an early pace 10-5 in the first set. Kazakhstan stormed back with lightning-fast spikes from Anikonova, but world No.1 and title-holders China proved their class. Teen sensation Gong, 19, tore the Kazakh defence into shreds with her thundering spikes which sparked two straight points for the China’s commanding 23-18 lead. Zhang gave the Chinese a crucial point from her sharp shot. China allowed Kazakhstan one more point from a drop from Radmila Beresneva to snatch the set 25-19.
Kazakhstan led initially in the second set 4-2 before China roared back with fierce attacks from Gong, Zhang and Li Jing to catch the less-experienced rivals at 6-6 and move ahead 20-14, thanks to their splendid teamwork and consistent play. As Kazakhstan became more prone with receiving mistakes, China entertained large crowds packing the 3,000-seater competition hall with their exceptional tactics and techniques. With Gong attacking devastatingly, China won the set with the similar margin 25-19.
The third set saw the Kazakh game riddled with unforced mistakes. China seized the chance to attack and block effectively to lead by wide margin 13-1 and 19-9. Despite a gallant fight, Kazakhstan still found China too strong to go down in the set 13-25 and the match. China reigned supreme over the 5th AVC Cup with a comfortable straight-set 25-19 25-19 25-13 victory. Kazakhstan picked up silver, their best finish ever in the biennial competition.
Gong Xiaoyu scored a match-high 21 points including 16 kills from 36 attempts for China. Zhang Changning added with 10 kill blocks. Yao Di contributed with 3 ace serves. Katerina Tatko led Kazakhstan with 6 points, all of them from her devastating spikes.
“I would like to thank all of my players as they did a very good job today in the final match. Kazakhstan tried hard to attack us, but they just came out with unforced mistakes to lose easy points. However, I’m happy with the win. Everyone in my team made us proud,” said China’s assistant coach Bao Zhuang on behalf of head coach Chen Youquan.