2017 FIVB World Grand Prix (Final Round: Nanjing, China)

The first leg of the month-long 2017 FIVB World Grand Prix featuring 32 of the world’s best teams in women’s volleyball — including China, Serbia, Brazil and the U.S. — has just been concluded.

Well, there are actually more than a dozen international venues for this prestigious volleyball event which would consequently be played in Nanjing, China for the final round. And while it’s fun to watch the Top 5 teams in their battles, let us for now focus our attention on teams who has really excited us with their brand of play — the Thais and the Japanese.

Pool C1 played in Apeldoorn, Netherlands.

This group is composed of world number 6 Japan, number 7 the Netherlands, number 9 Dominican Republic, and number 14 Thailand — with the Dutch topping the group due to their accumulated points. Still, don’t let that 0-3 card befuddle you — despite the losses the Thais actually had a fighting chance in each of their matches and even losing just 2-3 against Japan.

Nonetheless, while the Dutch and the Dominicans relied on their height and power, the Japanese and the Thais banked on their speed — with Japan displaying their savvy in defense; in fact, the world’s best floor defense for that matter and for which explains their status in the world of volleyball.

Interestingly though, there were several mainstays who were missing in this tourney for both teams. For Japan, Saori Sakoda, Kimura Saori, Yukiko Ebata, Erika Araki and Miyu Nagaoka. For Thailand, Onuma Sittirak, Malika Kanthong and Thatdao Nuekjang. So, just imagine if they were around?! Hey, most of these players are either one of their team’s tallest and best blockers, or strongest spikers — especially the high-flying Sakoda! Of course, while we understand the lefty Nagaoka is injured and Kimura Saori just retired last March at an ‘early’ age of 30 to settle down, we don’t really know what truly happened with the others — for one, #6 Haruka Miyashita who’s Japan’s starting setter was with the team but she never really played here. So??

The Netherlands (L) lost to Japan (R): 25-17, 25-21, 18-25, 22-25, 9-15

As for the Thais, they even listed their 3 missing players in their lineup. And??

In the end, you don’t call it a strategy to sit your more experienced players at a big stage like the World Grand Prix — which is what actually cost the Thais the win against a ‘patched-up’ Japanese team last July 7 — you got to field in your top guns not merely to catch up but even before the critical stages of the game. Competitiveness is never complacent.

Kudos to the grit of the Japanese though who managed to squeeze in two 3-2 victories despite their ‘wanting’ lineup. As well as to the Thais #19 Chatchu-on and especially to #16 Pimpichaya, the team’s second best spiker after #18 Ajcharaporn — certainly, their future is in good hands with these 3 hitters.

The Thais (L) lost to the Dominicans (R): 22-25, 25-22, 22-25, 18-25

So next up for these 2 teams, the second leg come Friday, 14 July in Sendai, Japan — that is minus the Dutch and the Dominicans (who are now grouped with Russia and Belgium in their second leg) but with world number 3 Serbia and number 4 Brazil joining the cast instead.

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