The Thai women’s volleyball team stepped up their game against fifth-ranked Italy, even managing to win a set, before falling 3-1 in their third match of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Lodz, Poland on Tuesday.
The opportunistic Asian champions scored 23 points off opponent errors, against just 14 by Italy, but the latter went on to take the match three sets to one (25-19, 21-25, 25-22, 25-18). Outside hitter Wipawee Srithong was the top scorer for Thailand with 13 points, followed by middle blockers Thatdao Nuekjang and Hattaya Bamrungsuk with 12 each.
Thailand, ranked 14th in the world, have faced higher-ranked opposition in their first three matches and that will continue on Wednesday when they meet seventh-ranked Poland. They opened their campaign with straight-sets defeats at the hands of Germany and defending Olympic champions the USA.
After that the schedule potentially gets a little more forgiving, with matches against Colombia (ranked 22nd), South Korea (36) and Slovenia (28). But all of those teams will also be looking to do some damage even if they don’t qualify for Paris 2024.
Seeking their first-ever Olympic berth, the Thai women are in the eight-team Pool C of the Sept 16-24 qualifying round.
A total of 24 teams are competing in three pools this week, with the Pool A matches taking place in Japan and the Pool B competition in China.
Pool C consists of Thailand, hosts Poland, the USA, 2022 Nations League winners Italy, Germany, Colombia, South Korea and Slovenia.
All inside the FIVB top seven, Poland, the USA and Italy are the three favourites to qualify, but some other teams have the potential to be dark horses.
Only 12 countries will make it into the Olympic volleyball tournament. The top two teams in each of the three pools will earn tickets to Paris. Hosts France already have an automatic place, and the remaining five places will be filled based on rankings following the first phase of the Volleyball Nations League 2024.
Thailand’s match against Poland on Wednesday will be televised at 10.30pm Thailand time on Workpoint TV Channel 23.
Outside hitter Wipawee Srithong led the Thai scoring against Italy with 13 points. (Photo: Volleyballworld.com)