Coach impressed as China keep calm through rocky start against Thais

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 August, 2010, 12:00am

China were given a scare as they struggled to beat Thailand 3-1 in their opening match of the FIVB World Grand Prix Hong Kong leg last night.

The mainland women, who outclassed their Asian counterparts 3-0 in the Chengdu leg two weeks ago, found themselves one set down and were trailing 19-12 in the second set.

Somehow, with the support of the 7,000 crowd at Hong Kong Coliseum, they clawed back to level the score with a 27-25 win after deuce and went on to take the following two sets 25-23, 25-15 to snatch a 3-1 win.

'I told the players not to panic and that they must hang in there when we were trailing in the second set,' said China coach Wang Baoquan. 'And I was happy to see the players were able to dig deep and claw back, point by point, to win the set after deuce. That was very crucial. Thailand played very well in the first two sets and gave us a lot troubles. They have improved a lot from their last match against us in Chengdu.'

Outside hitter Chen Liyi topped the scoring table for China with 18 points, 16 from the spike and two from the serve, while Thailand's Onuma Sittirak had 23 points with her spike.

Wang said they had identified many problems through the match and would try to avoid committing similar mistakes when they meet Germany today.

Earlier yesterday the United States moved a step closer to reaching the Grand Prix finals with another masterful performance, enjoying their fourth consecutive win in the qualifying round when they beat Germany in straight sets, 25-15, 25-18, 25-13.

Former US coach Lang Ping, who watched her ex-team from the stands, was impressed with the way they played. 'They won fairly easy today and their blocking was exceptional,' said Lang.

Outside hitter Destinee Hooker led the rout with a match-high 20 points, of which 17 came from the spike and the remaining three from blocks.

Logan Tom, who is set to rejoin her former coach Lang at the Guangzhou team in the China Super League in November, had 14 points, including four blocks.

The Americans are now fourth in the standings and are likely to join other top nations such as Brazil, Japan, Poland and hosts China in the Grand Prix finals, which will take place in Ningbo next week.

'Obviously this was an important win because Germany are one of the teams who still have the possibility to qualify for the finals and it helps as we now have five wins,' said US coach Hugh McCutcheon.