2017 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Grand Champions Cup: China is Champ and the Awarding Blunder

It’s been three days since the conclusion of the Grand Champions Cup in Nagoya, Japan where the Chinese emerged as the champs even before their final game against the Japanese.

Now, this was so as the Chinese remained as the only undefeated team heading towards their last game — that even if they lose to the Japanese, they would still be crowned champions since they would still be 1 win ahead of second placer Brazil. Still, the Chinese proved to be worthy champions as they completed the sweep against the hosts.

2017 World Grand Champions Cup MVP: Zhu Ting

And well, what else is new? Chinese star Zhu Ting once again dominated the competition en route to two deserving awards — Best Outside Hitter and of course, the MVP plum. My, we’d be seeing more of her since she’s just 22!

Final Standing and Awards

While we do understand that it’s natural for host countries to include some of their own players when it comes to awarding — this should not be ‘too much’. Instead, priority should always be given to the Top Four finishers of any FIVB-sanctioned tournament for that matter.

Sadly in this case, the Russian volleybelles were skipped of the recognition and instead two awards were given to the Japanese — Best Setter and Best Libero. Sure, the Japanese are good but organizers could have at least given one of those awards to the Russians — after all, not only were the Russians ahead in points but they even beat the Japanese in their own encounter.

Russia beat Japan 22-25, 25-18, 25-22, 28-26

Fortunately for Japan, tho they were a point behind Russia, they got a higher ratio over their competition which could be used to justify their awards.

Anyway, this awarding oversight though reminds us of the recent AVC held in Biñan, Laguna where the Philippines’ Dawn Macandili got the nod as the 2nd Best Libero despite the country finishing way down at number 8. Wow! This is an obvious boner that it’s like a conspiracy!

2017 AVC Final Standings and Awards (Aug 9-17, Philippines)

More so, one could even question the award-giving body (or the Philippine organizers) as to how come Chatchu-on and Hattaya edged out their better teammates — Ajcharaporn Kongyot (Thailand’s best spiker) and Pleumjit Thinkaow (Thailand’s best middle blocker) — for their respective awards. This is a performance award, not a favorite player award — come on!

Stop this ‘host-favored’ trend before it drags down the awarding reputation.

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2017 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Grand Champions Cup: Japan already preparing for the 2020 Olympics??

We are currently in a one day break from the ongoing World Grand Champions Cup in Tokyo and Nagoya, Japan. It’s actually just a short 6-day tournament (September 5-10) which features the top regional women’s volleyball teams the world over, namely: China, Russia, the US, Brazil, Korea and Japan.

And so far after 2 games each, 4 teams are knotted at 1-1 each with Korea as the only winless team and China slotted on the other end of the table with a 2-0 card. These 6 initial games were played at Tokyo while the remaining 9 games would be played in Nagoya, Japan. Well, let’s get on with the hosts.

Tokyo Round results

JAPAN v KOREA

Against Korea, the Japanese won in straight sets 25-23, 25-21, 26-24. Obviously, the scores speaks for itself; yes, it may have been a sweep but it was a struggle for Japan — mainly because of Korea’s #7 Lee Jae-yeong who really stepped up in the absence of star spiker Kim Yeon-koung.

Japan’s Rika Nomoto spikes one against the Korean defense

Then again, the Japanese were also without Sarina Koga and Haruka Miyashita which then sort of leveled the field. Anyway, we just noticed that the Koreans were still quite the same tho in their lack of flexibility and just basically relied on height (and Kim Yeon-koung) like in many of their games.

Japan, meanwhile, banked on the power of Rika Nomoto with the help of Risa Shinnabe. Still, we were just wondering why Yuki Ishii was not getting enough playing time then when she is one of the better players in their roster.

RUSSIA v JAPAN

The following day, we saw the Japanese losing in 4 sets 22-25, 25-18, 25-22, 28-26 as the Russians just proved to be too tall for the hosts to overcome. But hey, tho the Russians looked like herons on the court, they move well!

They weren’t unsteady as the Japanese just found it hard to penetrate the Russian wall of #21 Ekaterina Efimova, #15 Tatiana Kosheleva and #14 Irina Fetisova while countering with bombs mainly from #8 Nataliya Goncharova.

Nagoya Round schedule

In the end, the Japanese should have learned from this match — that is on how to beat height — as they are clearly preparing for the next Olympics!

Notice? The current roster of Japan which they also fielded in the recent World Grand Prix does not have any player in their 30’s, the oldest being a couple of players aged 28. Meaning, they excluded players — no matter how good they are — who would be over 30 come the 2020 Olympics.

Saori Sakoda (L) and Kimura Saori (R) reacts after losing in the QF of the 2016 Olympics

Okay, Koyomi Tominaga is 28 but she’s a setter while Arisa Sato is a libero — like, they won’t be strained too much just as reserve middle blocker Ayaka Matsumoto would, too. This brings us to the conclusion why super spiker Saori Sakoda (‘Air Rio’) who’d be turning 30 in 3 months wasn’t included in this year’s lineup — and which also made us wonder if star captain Kimura Saori (who just turned 31 last August) was just forced to retire due to the policy of the Japan Volleyball Association. Hmm.

Shouldn’t they check on health, skills and interest first before deciding?

2017 Asian Women’s Volleyball Championships: QF Review of the Philippines against Thailand

So, today is the last day of the 2017 AVC which is being held in Biñan, Laguna. This is the Asian Championships for women’s volleyball where host Philippines is among the 14 participating countries of Asia-Oceania that includes powerhouse Japan and Thailand as well as Australia and New Zealand.

As of this writing, the Philippines is battling against Kazakhstan for 7th place after the Pinays got swept by the Thais in their QFs’ match last August 15.

Checking the scores, 25-21, 25-14, 25-20; it was pretty close except for the second set where the Thais just schooled the Pinays — which led to Filipino diehards as saying they would be one of the stronger teams in the future.

Hmm. I hate to say this but altho the Pinays has improved, that ‘improvement’ basically came from ‘fighting spirit’ which is undeniably important not just in sports but life in general. Indeed, it really helps to play in your home court — just as the Thais did very well in their home soil at the recent World Grand Prix. But after home court advantage, what’s next? The truth — not flattery. That’s what’s needed for ‘real’ improvement.

And so, what are they? Aside from talent which is a given, we’re talking about the products of training here which are skill, athleticism as well as chemistry. We’re not even counting attitude.

Alyssa Valdez spikes through the Thai defense

In this match, the Thais hardly played Pimpichaya, their second best spiker at hand; while they came in with just about the same lineup they fielded at the World Grand Prix with some of their stars like Onuma and Thatdao still unavailable. Meanwhile, though the Philippines also missed Rachel Anne Daquis, probably the team’s third best spiker — clearly, the Pinays have not really and who knows if they could really address their needs.

For one, athleticism. They are just too heavy save for a few of their players like Valdez and the liberos. Notice how the Thais could jump and react?

See, in the Philippines’ first six, only Alyssa Valdez and their libero are flexible enough — while the rest are just heavy. Santiago is tall but is slow to react and mostly weak in her spikes, she could only be fully utilized as a blocker in these kinds of tournaments. Maraño is just heavy, you could notice it whenever she tries to spike, she could hardly lift her feet. Even their setter in Fajardo is not really flexible, her back sets are pretty stiff. Just look at her counterpart in Nootsara, she’s like almost bending backwards, like yoga! Ever noticed?

Jovelyn Gonzaga, Philippines’ opposite spiker

Now looking closely, Jovelyn Gonzaga is actually the Philippines best spiker — not Valdez. She’s much stronger and more accurate with her spikes. Then again, she’s a bit heavy, so she could not really jump as high as Valdez who interestingly (despite her athleticism) makes a lot of net hits in her spikes. Like, it’s either the ball would get stopped by the net for a side out, or go through but not with some ‘slides’ — that a clean hit is almost lucky for her! Perhaps she should just do more ‘angling’ if she couldn’t hit harder. And Macandili? While she’s expectedly quick, she’s just too small that she seems to be rolling all over the court just trying to get to those balls.

Until these are fixed, the Philippines would just remain on the Southeast Asian level — unless powerhouse teams deteriorate.

2017 FIVB World Grand Prix: Brazilians are Champs and the Final Standings

One of the biggest stages in women’s volleyball has come to an exciting conclusion last night with Brazil prevailing over Italy in their Gold medal match, 3-2. And lo, know that this is already the 12th time that the Brazilians have won this prestigious tournament!

Nonetheless, though the championship match reached the deciding set, the game was somehow beyond reach come technical timeout with Brazil leading 8-3. Key to this match? More than the strong blocking of Brazil, Italy’s most promising spiker Paola Egonu just really looked like a neophyte as she simply couldn’t seem to angle her bombs away from the Brazilians at the net. I mean, why did she just keep forcing it to go straight and through those long and strong Brazilian limbs instead of hitting them on angles?

Anyway, as good as the Brazilians were, we were actually not that impressed with their championship as they actually needed a Chinese win in the semis over the Netherlands to make the Gold medal match. Talk of luck. More so, the Brazilians in fact got swept by several teams in this tournament, and among them were against: Serbia (July 8), Thailand (July 15), and China (August 2). See? Last year, they only got swept by world number 1 China.

Meanwhile, the Bronze medal match between the Chinese and the Serbians was an interestingly hard fought game with Serbia taking 3rd place in a tight 3-1 win. Oops, don’t let that 3-1 gap deceive you for it went 25-22, 20-25, 25-23 and 25-21 before Serbia finally clinched the victory. Guess, the Chinese preliminary round was indicative of what their campaign here would bring. Imagine just a 5-4 card? So.

Incidentally, we were also wondering why the US actually fielded a team without their top spiker Foluke Akinradewo? Was she still injured?? Foluke’s presence could have catapulted their team onto the medal round. Instead, we found the Final Rankings sort of messed up. Like, the Netherlands and the US tied for 5th spot? Hey, the Dutch lost their 2 ‘Final Six’ games on a 2-3 fashion which should earn them 2 points — while the Americans lost their 2 games, 2-3 against Serbia and 1-3 against Italy which should just be equivalent to 1 point. So, the Dutch should be 5th while the US is 6th for this year’s WGP.

Final Rankings: World Grand Prix 2017 Top 20

Hopefully, some ranking corrections. Till next time!

2017 FIVB World Grand Prix (Week 3)

Week 3 has just come to a close for the World Grand Prix — and that is the Intercontinental Round played by all 3 groups of 32 teams the world over. Oh yes, as you know we are particularly monitoring Thailand and Japan..

And now after 9 games each, you could see the standings below. By the way, in case you were wondering what those highlights mean — light green means qualified for Group 1 final round, light blue means qualified as hosts and lastly, pink means relegated position.

Intercontinental Round Standings

Meanwhile, the point system goes like this — a 3-0 or 3-1 win is equivalent to 3 points; 3-2 nets you 2 points while the loser gets 1 point for taking 2 sets in the game. At any rate, both the Japanese and the Thais are already done for this tournament as they failed to qualify for the Top 6 of their group with the Japanese slotted at number 7 (since China took number 6 as hosts) while the Thais took the tenth spot.

JAPAN

Still, though the Japanese squad bowed out, we can not help but be amazed by the resiliency they showed in week 3. For those who have not seen their games, after losing to host China 1-3 — they won their next two games on come from behind victories against world #3 Serbia and #5 Russia, 3-2.

Down 0-2 in each of those games, the ‘rag-tag’ Japanese squad relied on grit and determination to send those matches to a fifth set and beat them both.

This is what we’re saying, if the Japanese only had their other top players like middle blocker Erika Araki and spikers Miyu Nagaoka, Yukiko Ebata, and the high-flying wing spiker Saori Sakoda nicknamed “Air Rio” — they would not only win squeakers but make it to the Top 6!

THAILAND

And the Thais? After winning just 1 game (yes, 3-0 against world #4 Brazil!) in the first two weeks, they topped their own pool with two 3-0 sweeps against world #8 Italy and #12 Turkey. Not to mention, they also just lost a tight game against world number #9 Dominican Republic, 3-2.

Indeed, it helps to be in your home floor. With the crowd cheering the whole time in week 3, the Thais made their world class opponents look ‘ordinary’.

Yet just like the Japanese, the Thai squad were also missing some key players especially power-spiker Onuma and middle blocker Thatdao. Okay, while they already look good with up-and-comers Pimpichaya and Chatchu-on — and of course, led by Thailand’s best spiker in Ajcharaporn, middle blocker Pleumjit and ace setter Nootsara, it would certainly help their future campaigns if they could also enhance their floor defense.

For now, let’s just enjoy the Final round!

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.