Historic achievement by Thai spikers
Team to take on hosts Turkey in last 8 battle
Thailand have made a slice of history by advancing to the FIVB Volleyball Women's Nations League for the first time.
Thailand lost to Italy 3-0 (25-20, 25-14, 25-14) in their last match of the preliminary round in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Sunday and needed the USA to triumph over Germany in a match hours later in Calgary, Canada, to earn a spot in the finals.
The Americans beat Germany 3-1 (25-17, 25-13, 13-25, 25-22) to send the Thais to the finals in Ankara, Turkey.
Seven teams, plus finals hosts Turkey, reached the finals.
Thailand were eighth with 15 points from five wins and seven losses behind the USA, Brazil, Italy, China, Japan, Serbia and Turkey.
Thailand will meet Turkey in the quarter-finals.
Turkey, who had seven wins and five losses, will count on the support of their fans to try to overcome Thailand. The last time the teams met, at the 2021 VNL, the Turkish team won in four sets.
In the other quarter-final matches, the reigning Olympic champions USA clash with world champions Serbia, Tokyo Olympic silver medallists Brazil meet Asian champions Japan, and European champions Italy play against three-time Olympic champions China.
The quarter-finals take place on July 13 and 14, with the semi-finals to follow on July 16 and the medal matches completing the schedule on July 17.
It is the first time that Thailand have reached the finals since the tournament became the Nations League in 2018, although they played in the final stages on a couple of occasions when the event was known as the World Grand Prix.
It is a new era for Thai volleyball after the so-called "Fab Six" retired or quit playing for the national side last year.
They are Wilavan Apinyapong, Malika Kanthong, Onuma Sittirak, Pleumjit Thinkaow, Nootsara Tomkom, and Amporn Hyapha.
Thailand coach Danai Sriwatcharamethakul said yesterday the 2022 finals would be a bonus for the young team.
"The players will gain experience. It is a good opportunity for them," he said.
Thailand captain Pornpun Guedpard said after the match against Italy that the team were satisfied with their performance in the first round.
"Overall, we are happy with our form, although it's not 100 percent," she said.
The team will return to Bangkok today and preparation for the match against Turkey.
Prayut, Prawit praise squad
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha congratulated the squad for showing to the world their impressive skills that carried them to the VNL finals, according to government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, in his capacity as president of the National Olympic Committee of Thailand, also praised the team and the Thailand Volleyball Association.
The Thais got off to a good start in the 2022 edition with three wins over Bulgaria, China and Serbia and one defeat against Belgium in the first week of the preliminary round in Ankara.
In the second week in Quezon City, the Philippines, after Thailand beat Canada, the team announced that eight of their players had tested positive for Covid-19.
They then lost to Poland, Japan and the USA.
In the third week, Thailand defeated Canada and then suffered three straight losses against the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Italy.
Meanwhile, the USA and Serbia have met 22 times in international tournaments since 2007, with the Americans winning 15 of those encounters, including the most recent one in Calgary last week which they prevailed in straight sets.
"It feels great to finish the preliminary phase the way we did," said USA outside hitter Sarah Wilhite. bangkok post/volleyballworld.com