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!

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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.