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.

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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 US Open: Maria Sharapova’s amazing run is over

After three straight wins, the former US Open champion’s comeback is over as Russia’s Maria Sharapova lost to Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova in 3 sets — 7-5, 4-6, 2-6. World number 16 Sevastova would now face unseeded American Sloane Stephens who won her fourth round match against world number 30 Julia Goerges of Germany 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

So, what happened to Sharapova? Let’s have a look.

More than facing a 16th seed, Sharapova obviously got beaten because of her 51 unforced errors compared to Sevastova’s 14. Now, what does this mean? Practice and fatigue. Since she’s been out for more than a year, she clearly hasn’t really had competitive practice or matches which then contributed to her stamina and timing. Hey, your game will always be there, it’s in your subconscious, in your reflexes — but timing is key to these.

So, Sharapova could have lost to any player in that match who tried to make her run all over the court. See, without stamina, her howls became deeper as she expended her energy just to win the first set 7-5, tried to be competitive in the second set 4-6 — and where she just lost gas come the third 2-6.

World number 16 Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia

Sevastova Analysis. Anastasija simply did the right thing that anyone (facing a basically inactive opponent) would do, just run Maria to the ground. That’s it. Anastasija just played the basics well on this one.

2017 US Open: Maria Sharapova now in Round 4

After beating world number two Simona Halep in the first round, Maria Sharapova has won her next two matches to advance to the Round of 16 and against world number 16 Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia..

All these also with some ‘side action’ coming from world number five Caroline Wozniacki accusing organizers of ‘favoritism’ on Sharapova’s easy schedules and center court assignment. Okay, as many fans by now know, Sharapova countered by saying “she doesn’t make the schedules and could even play at the parking lot — and that her concern, more than rankings, has always been to improve and advance, that’s even true when she was still number one.”

Hmm. Good lesson. So, back to action.

ROUND 2: v Timea Babos (6-7, 6-4, 6-1)

We felt that Sharapova was still recovering from that long match against Halep that her first set against Babos (world number 59) dragged on to a tie-breaker that Sharapova lost. But from the second set onwards, she started to get back to her round one form and eventually winning in 3 sets.

Babos Analysis. Timea is sort of stiff. She was like a board out there that could hardly run through the baselines where all the Hungarian really did was just return the shots of Sharapova without any real strategy.

ROUND 3: v Sofia Kenin (7-5, 6-2)

Sharapova was back to business with her all-black outfit here. And against the 139th ranked opponent in Sofia Kenin, this time, it only took her two sets to finish off the 18-year-old American.

Kenin Analysis. Sofia was more flexible and faster than Maria’s second round opponent Timea Babos — however, while she’s got a decent backhand, her forehand was kind of weak. Like, her shots were open for good returns from her opponents! In short, Sofia needs to develop consistent ‘sharpness’ in her forehand shots to go far in her career.

Here’s an interesting thought by Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou — Sharapova’s best news possible as she enters a tournament is if Serena is not participating, and that in this US Open, she won’t make it past the 4th round. Well, know what level-headed fans would think of his words? More than their mastery over Sharapova but being the coach of Serena, guess Patrick is just jealous of the attention Sharapova is getting on her return.

This is your chance, Maria.

2017 US Open: Maria Sharapova beats Simona Halep (Rd 1)

After serving a 15-month suspension, Maria Sharapova has now returned to women’s tennis as she battled world number two Simona Halep for over 2 hours before eking out a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 victory at the 2017 US Open.

Obviously, the first thing we would notice here is Sharapova’s all-black attire which is actually the first time we have seen her wear since — and for which clearly tells us, Maria means business. Yes, even before the start of the match when Sharapova and Halep met at center court, one could sense Sharapova’s tension that she was already like psyching up Halep as she just kept wiggling and swinging (not seen in the above video) her racket.

True, Sharapova is six-foot-two while Halep is only five-foot-six — however unlike basketball, height does not really matter much in tennis as long as you got the strength, speed, agility and of course, accuracy to keep putting the ball in and to where your opponent could not return the shot.

Simona Halep reportedly fired her coach after her loss to Sharapova

Yes through the years, we have indeed seen that power in Sharapova if only not against Serena Williams — which she could have worked on her speed instead to overcome Momma Smash. Unfortunately, not during their time. But luckily in this match, or perhaps because of Sharapova’s eagerness to prove herself anew, she has interestingly displayed that side of athleticism in her against the Romanian.

See, being a tall woman could actually be a liability here since tennis is one of those fast-moving sports that even having that mental toughness would not always be enough as shown in Sharapova’s matches against Serena. It should be speed against power, after all, this is not arm-wrestling. And only then would tenacity come into play and prove to be the deciding factor.

Maria Sharapova, all business

In this game against Simona Halep, Sharapova did well in her shot placements running Halep from side to side before finishing her off. Yet if only Halep was aggressive enough on those baselines, she could have effectively countered the Russian — for one, Sharapova is coming off a long lay off, so..

In the end, Maria Sharapova proved to be the tougher player but for how long could she keep up, we do not know. Especially when she faces another Top 10 player. Her next opponent, world #59 Timea Babos in the round of 64.

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.