Crunch time: Lang Ping’s China to take on the United States for supremacy in Hong Kong leg of World Grand Prix

Legendary Chinese coach looking for psychological boost against the team she coached to silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in Sunday’s grand finale

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 June, 2016, 9:22pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 June, 2016, 12:45pm

It’s crunch time for China as coach Lang Ping will find out what her charges are made of as she faces her old team, the United States, in the grand finale of Sunday’s Hong Kong leg of the FIVB World Grand Prix.

Having blasted past Germany 3-0 on Saturday in their penultimate game of the four-team, round-robin tournament at the Coliseum, the legendary coach, once dubbed the “Hammer” as a player, will try to win the psychological edge ahead of China’s pool game against the United States at the Rio Olympics in six weeks’ time.

Lang coached the United States to a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but has since switched allegiance back to the Chinese camp as she attempts to become the first to win Olympic gold as both a player (Los Angeles Olympics 1984) and a coach.

Lang’s charges defeated the Americans in the Ningbo leg of the World Grand Prix series two weeks ago, and she will be hoping for a repeat of that performance as the two unbeaten teams clash in the Hong Kong leg for supremacy.

The Chinese team sent a different starting line-up to tackle the Germans but they still proved too good. The former Olympic and world champions had a few hiccups along the way but still posted a comprehensive 25-13, 25-16, 25-22 victory completed in one hour and 13 minutes.

Earlier, world number one the United States also stayed unbeaten in the Hong Kong leg by overcoming the Netherlands 3-1 [25-17, 19-25, 25-17, 25-20].

We need to minimise these errors in the match with the United States and other opponents in the Grand Prix final round
Lang Ping

The Chinese played without star player Zhu Ting but captain Hui Ruoqi returned to the fore having missed the game against the Netherlands on Friday because of ‘flu.

“We had a chance to send a new line-up today. We hoped to test different combinations during the Grand Prix series,” said Lang.

“This line-up did quite well in blocking and defence. But we also had some ups and downs during the match as we sometimes conceded consecutive points. We need to minimise these errors in the match with the United States and other opponents in the Grand Prix final round [in Thailand].”

Lang added: “I haven’t got a line-up for our meeting [against the US]. It has to be discussed with other coaches in the squad and we usually take the performance of each player in the last match as reference.

“The US are using different line-ups too, but they are always strong no matter what line-up they pick. I hope we will have an exciting match.”

In an earlier match, the Americans had to dig deep to overcome world number 14 Netherlands in a match lasting almost two hours.

The US won the first set 25-17 but the Dutch came back by taking the second 25-19.

The Americans bagged the third set 25-17 and managed to overcome their rivals in an intense fourth set 25-20 to seal the match 3-1.

Celeste Plak, one of the top scorers for the Dutch, said errors cost them the match in the end.

“From the start of the fourth set, we were close. But in the end we started to make little mistakes. Maybe we didn’t want to make those mistakes so we didn’t play with enough courage. It was in our own hands and we gave it away. That’s a shame,” said Plak, who contributed 14 points in the match, winning 13 from spiking from 24 attempts.

Despite defeat, the 20-year-old outside hitter said the match was good preparation for the Olympics. Her side will be in the same group with the Americans and Chinese in the group stage in Rio.

“It’s very good for us to play with these teams [in Hong Kong] to compare ourselves in terms of the level of play,” said Plak.