Lang makes a winning return for China
Former playing great leads her team to victory in the Macau leg of the World Grand Prix series
Lang Ping's return got China's women off to a convincing start in the World Grand Prix series as they clinched the Macau leg yesterday.
A 3-1 (26-24, 19-25, 25-17, 25-17) victory over the Netherlands at Macau Forum maintained their unbeaten record in the four-team tournament which also featured Bulgaria and Cuba. China now move to Hong Kong for the next round of competition.
Twenty top teams are competing in the three-week series, with the top five, along with hosts Japan, qualifying for the final in Sapporo from August 28 to September 1.
Bulgaria, who are making their debut in the series, finished second with two wins, followed by the Netherlands and Cuba.
Fifty-two-year-old Chinese volleyball legend Lang was reappointed national women's team coach in April, the position she held from 1995 to 1998, and has since won two invitation tournaments in China and now this event.
Despite the impressive results, the coach admitted her experimental team, a mix of young and seasoned campaigners, still had a long way to go.
"There were still some ups and downs in the team during the match as the players are working hard to gel," said Lang. "We have won some matches but my concern is not the results but rather how the players can improve on a daily basis."
Lang will change half of her squad when they start in the Hong Kong leg at the Coliseum which runs from Friday to Sunday. "We have to give other players opportunities as we prepare for some stronger teams," said Lang. "It's important to train the players to work as a unit."
Spiker Wang Yimei, who won the Galaxy Entertainment Favourite Player Award for the tournament, praised her coach for her attention to detail. "I have been told by the coach to improve my receiving which has been my weakness for a long time," said Wang, who was also a member of the China team for the London Olympic Games. "And with Lang in charge and her advice, I am able to make good progress."
China also dominated the individual prizes, with up-and-coming Zhu Ting collecting both the Best Scorer and Best Blocker awards, while Ma Yunwen and Shen Jingsi were named Best Server and Best Setter respectively. Daymara Lescay of Cuba was the Best Spiker.
At 1.95 metres, Zhu, 19, is the tallest player in the squad. "We could almost not block her in the first game and this only changed later when she got a bit tired," said Dutch coach Gido Vermeulen. "She has the potential to become the world's best."