2018 FIVB Volleyball Women’s Nations League: Week 2 Update

Two weeks into the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Women’s Nations League, we find 5 teams tied at the top as far as win-loss records is concerned at 5-1 — with world number 11 Argentina as the only winless squad at 0-6.

Yet so far aside from the regular powers, three teams are worth watching.

VNL week 2 standings

South Korea. If you thought the Koreans just got lucky beating a Zhu Ting-less China, think again. In week 2, they rode their momentum as hosts and blanked world number 5 Russia (25-19, 25-14, 25-17) while beating 13th ranked Germany in four sets (23-25, 26-24, 25-16, 25-16).

Lee Jae-yeong (#17), heir to Kim Yeon-koung as Korea’s best spiker

Still, what kind of surprised us was their fall against world number 7 Italy where the Koreans lost in straight sets, 17-25, 21-25, 21-25. Part of this was obviously due to not fully using super spiker Lee Jae-yeong (#17) who has truly emerged as a great force but was used sparingly in favor of taller players for blocking purposes. Bad strategy that time and it showed in their loss to Italy (as the taller Koreans on the court were not as quick as the hustling Italians) when utilizing Lee Jae-yeong could have given them a ‘variation’ in offense and quickness in defense at the same time.

Thailand. Their record might be 2-4 but if you have really been watching their games, the Thais could have won a couple more of them like the ones against #5 Russia (week 1, fourth set was even decided at 30-28), #3 Serbia (lost 1-3 but reached 18+ in all lost sets, meaning they were competitive throughout the match) and against #1 China whom they could have even beaten in straight sets (23-25, 24-26, 25-22, 17-25) if only they had power spiker Ajcharaporn especially in the early, critical stages of the second set.

Thailand’s top spiker Ajcharaporn Kongyot (#18)

Key points for the Thais. Utilize Ajcharaporn (best spiker) and Nootsara (best setter) especially in critical moments, like when the opponent’s score hits 20, bring them back to court if they were resting. Malika has deteriorated as a spiker, just have her for floor defense, setting up or serving if ever.

While it’s good to have Onuma back, it’s quite noticeable that she can’t really jump anymore, so go to her as 3rd or 4th option instead behind Ajcharaporn, Pimpichaya and Chatchu-on. Meanwhile, Pleumjit still has it as a premier middle blocker, however, continue giving Hattaya more confidence as she would eventually replace Pleumjit when she slows down. It would have helped if Thatdao Nuekjang was around though especially in blocking since she’s tall and strong enough for international competitions.

Poland. Ranked 22nd in the world and in fact the lowest among those participating in this tournament, who would have thought that they could put up a good fight in just about every game they played? In week 1, the Polish may have lost 1-3 to #2 USA but look at the scores — 26-28, 22-25, 25-22, 15-25! Then they beat #7 Italy in 5 sets, 21-25, 25-14, 19-25, 25-17, 15-12 before going down against #12 Turkey 21-25, 17-25, 23-25.

In week 2, the Polish dismantled #1 China in a 5-set marathon then took #3 Serbia to four sets (25-20, 25-27, 24-26, 15-25) before finally losing out to Thailand in another grueling match with the decider ending at 14-16!

Looking closely, #22 Poland actually had a chance to win in all the games they have lost. Thanks to the hard-hitting 21-year-old spiker Malwina Smarzek (#17), they are certainly bound to rise in the rankings very soon.

Get ready for week 3! #enjoyvnl

Advertisements

2018 FIVB Volleyball Women’s Nations League now on Week 2

In case you are wondering what happened to indoor volleyball, well, one of the major tournaments for the year – 2018 FIVB Volleyball Women’s Nations League – has in fact already begun. May 15 to be exact.

So first leg down, now the second leg is just about to start…

VNL week 1 standings

Today. Yes, today. This tourney of the world’s best women’s teams would actually run for about a month and a half (until July 1) and that would be played in 21 venues where the final round would be in Nanjing, China.

Here are the schedules for the next three days.

NOTABLES: After the first leg, one of the more interesting results I should say was the match where world number 1 China got walloped by world number 10 Korea in three, yes, three straight sets — 15-25, 15-25, 13-25. Then again, while Korea’s star player Kim Yeon-koung was playing, her counterpart in Chinese superstar Zhu Ting was just not around.

Okay, let’s just #enjoyvnl on its second week for now!

2018 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Qualification (AVC) Latest

Today is the last day of the qualifiers for the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship to be held in Japan which would run from Sep 29 to Oct 20, 2018.

This qualifiers actually started last September 20 with 2 pools composed of 5 teams each with Japan taking a bye being the host of the 2018 tournament.

2018 AVC Qualifiers

At any rate, the qualifiers have already been determined since yesterday after China, South Korea and Thailand notched their third straight win, respectively — leaving today’s matches as just for formality’s sake.

And so, let’s just check out on each of the three teams’ highlights.

As for today’s schedule, here goes..

September 24 Schedules

While the China against Chinese Taipei game is an obvious overmatch, the match between Thailand and South Korea would prove to be interesting — just hope they’d play competitively even if this is already a no-bearing game.

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.

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 SEA Games: Thailand v Philippines (Women’s Volleyball – SEMIS)

We are now about a week into the 29th Southeast Asian Games, however, we are already in the medal round of the women’s volleyball competition — after all, this is still a growing sport in this region with just 6 participating teams.

And so today we bring you a review on the semifinal match that was played yesterday between Thailand and the Philippines, yes, like a rematch of sorts of their recent AVC meeting in Laguna.

While we did expect the Thais to win the game handily, the Pinays actually put up a good fight before going down in 3 sets 21-25, 17-25, 17-25.

So did the Pinays ‘already’ improve, or did the Thais just deteriorate?

Well, we say the Filipinas played inspired ball especially in the first set that the Thais had to bring in their best setter in Nootsara Tomkom to restore some order for Thailand midway through the second set.

Yet looking closely though, the Pinays were just their usual selves save for the fact that they were trying to get Jaja Santiago to spike a lot more — which could have backfired (and left the Pinays trailing by a larger margin) since as we know her spikes are just quite easy to receive for a counter attack. More so as we previously said, the Philippines’ libero in Macandili is just too small to bear the strength of Thailand’s hard hitters led by their best spiker in Ajcharaporn. My, Macandili could get injured at some point!

(L) Thailand (Hattaya, Ajcharaporn), (R) Philippines (Ortiz, Valdez, Macandili, Gonzaga)

REAL STORY 

Key to the Philippines’ good showing here was their shuffling of players. This gave them different looks and skill sets that sort of confused the Thais. As for Thailand, they just seem to play to the level of their opponent — especially their libero in Piyanut who seem lackadaisical in going after the ball. Else, the Thais could just already be tired after playing continuous tournaments — World Grand Prix, AVC and all.

As of this writing and since 10AM, the Philippines are currently playing Vietnam in the battle for third place while Thailand would square off with Indonesia for the gold later at about 4PM.

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.