Thailand won their first Asian senior women’s volleyball championship since 2013 on Wednesday in a five-set thriller over favourites China in Nakhon Ratchasima.
Playing in front of a raucous crowd of 5,000 at Korat Chatchai Hall, the Thai women won the first set before China, ranked fifth in the world, battled back in the second. The same pattern repeated in the third and fourth sets before the home side finally prevailed, with a final scoreline of 25-21, 25-27, 25-19, 20-25, 16-14.
Thai outside hitter Chatchu-On Moksri led all scorers with 23 points from 21 attacks, one block and one ace, while outside hitter Ajcharaporn Kongyot and middle blocker Thatdao Nuekjang added another 22 and 16 points respectively. Outside hitter Wu Mingjie contributed 22 points to pace China.
Cheered on by drum-beating and yelling home fans, Thailand got off to a brilliant start, with Ajcharaporn shredding the Chinese defence with her attacks to put the host side in front 8-6.
After that, Thailand mixed the offensive combinations from devastating attacks of Ajcharaporn, Pimpichaya Kokram and Chatchu-On to extend the lead to 21-17.
However, China held their nerve, attacking relentlessly to narrow the margin 20-22. The home side then found another gear, with a Chatchu-On spike providing the set point.
Holding a 1-0 advantage, Thailand played with more confidence and consistency in the second set. With Pimpichaya and Chatchu-On powerfully hitting cross-court, Thailand were up 24-18 and needed just one more point. However, China went on to score six points in a row to silence the noisy home crowd.
Their confidence boosted, China intensified their defence in the third set, using their height advantage to block solidly and attack powerfully at the net to jump to a 10-6 lead.
Thailand shuffled their lineup, and when Thanacha Sooksod came in for Pimpichaya she proved to be a game-changer. She was responsible for aces and spikes to level the score at 10-10 before Thailand started to pull away.
In the fourth set, China’s determination paid off as they built a 15-11 lead and extended it to 18-14, capitalising on errors by Thailand. The hosts narrowed the gap to 20-23 before Wu Mingjie scored two points to win the set.
The decider saw both sides fight neck and neck, but a gusty display by Thailand ultimately made the difference as they fought back to 14-14 and went on to win.
Thailand, ranked 14th in the world, advanced to the final after upsetting five-times champion Japan 3-2 in their semifinal on Tuesday. Defending champions Japan had beaten Thailand in their five previous encounters. Both Thailand and China had gone through the tournament undefeated before their final showdown.
The Chinese side has won the Asian championship 13 times in all. They defeated Vietnam 3-0 on Tuesday to secure their first appearance in a final since 2015.
Thailand had won the Asian championship twice before — in 2009 with a defeat of China, and in 2013 with an upset of Japan when the tournament was also held in Nakhon Ratchasima.
Earlier on Wednesday, Japan won the bronze medal with a dramatic 3-2 (21-25, 25-14, 25-22, 20-25, 15-11) win against Vietnam in the third-place playoff match.