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Volleyball: China survive thriller to reach Girls’ U18 Worlds final

China’s U18s celebrate after beating Peru 23-21 in the fifth to set up a final against the USA. All photos: FIVB.

China’s U18s celebrate after beating Peru 23-21 in the fifth to set up a final against the USA. All photos: FIVB.

August 3, 2013: China miraculously survived nine match points to beat Peru 3-2 (17-25, 22-25, 25-20, 25-19, 23-21) and set up a clash with the USA in Sunday’s final of the FIVB Girls’ U18 World Championship in Thailand.

 

USA also had to prevail in five games in their semi-final, beating Brazil 3-2 (16-25, 25-14, 20-25, 25-17, 15-12) in an earlier contest at Chatchai Hall in Nakhon Ratchasima, north of Bangkok.

 

Ju Wanrong on the attack against Peru.

Ju Wanrong on the attack against Peru.

China booked the second ticket in the final after again coming back from two games behind, as they did in their 3-2 win over the Dominican Republic in the quarters.

 

Peru started the semi-final in spirited fashion, aided by passionate fans and drums, and led continuously in the first and second sets, with powerful hitter Angela Leyva raining down spikes on her way to a total of 30 points.

 

Skilful setter Shiamara Almeida was instrumental in the combinations that successfully deceived the tall Chinese blockers, especially Yuan Xinyue, China’s leading scorer in the competition.

 

The 1.99-metre Yuan, who won several points with her spike services, played a key role as China won the next two games 25-20, 25-19 before a thrilling tiebreak set.

 

China led 6-4, but Peru turned it around to lead 8-7 and then set up three match points at 14-11. However, China saved all three points to make it 14-14.

 

Peru then went on to create another six match points, but China saved them all and eventually won an extraordinary fifth set 23-21.

 

Yuan Xinyue, China’s top scorer, again played a key role.

Yuan Xinyue, China’s top scorer, again played a key role.

Yuan and Wang Yunlu, China’s second-highest scorer in the event, were the team’s top scorers with 17 points each.

 

Wang Yuanyuan (16) – who substituted for Hu Mingyuan in the second game – Ju Wanrong (13) and Lin Lin (12) all made big contributions.

 

Sun Haiping, China’s captain, was exhausted but relieved after another epic encounter.

 

“Today we performed our best against Peru, but we’re exhausted,” Sun said. “We snatched victory and that has motivated us to do better and better in every match we compete in. No matter how tough the games are, we will play our best in order to achieve our goal. We will do our best in the final.”

 

Emotional scenes after China “snatch” victory to reach the final.

Emotional scenes after China “snatch” victory to reach the final.

China coach Dong Ruijun paid tribute to the Thai fans who supported his team’s comeback, but said the USA would prove another difficult opponent on Sunday.

 

“We always encourage our players to put in the maximum effort and we thank all the Thai fans for their support,” Dong said. “The next match will surely be tough and we’ll do our best.”

 

The USA’s key performers in the semi-final included Mikaela Foecke, her team’s top scorer, and Audriana Fitzmorris, who made many successful blocks.

 

In earlier matches on Sunday, hosts Thailand will play Egypt for 15th place, Chinese Taipei face Greece for 11th Japan will play Serbia for fifth spot.

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