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Volleyball: Towering teen star Zhu stars as China down Bulgaria in Macau


August 2, 2013: Zhu Ting shone, but China made hard work of beating lowly Bulgaria 3-0 (25-13, 26-24, 25-23) to get their FIVB World Grand Prix Pool D campaign off to a winning start in Macau.


In the earlier game, Netherlands impressed as they beat higher-ranked Cuba 3-0 (25-20, 25-14, 25-11) to kick off a competitive pool featuring three former World Grand Prix winners as well as Bulgaria, one of three Grand Prix first-timers this year.


China, the world number five, won the first game convincingly, but were 10-4 behind in the second game against a team ranked 40th. Jenny Lang Ping’s team clawed their way back and won in straight games, but again struggled to close out the third game after taking a 12-6 lead.


20130802_D-CHN1Zhu, MVP as China won both the U20 World Championship in June and last October’s Asian Junior Championship, did shine throughout and was the star performer for the crowd favourites from the first game, when she scored three points in a row.


The 1.95-metre teenager eventually totalled 18 points, which included four blocks. She was supported by experienced campaigners Wang Yimei (11 points), Ma Yunwen (10 points) and captain Zhang Lei (8), as well as 22-year-old Liu Congcong (9).


Netherlands, currently ranked 20th, took control from the start against Cuba, a team they most recently faced in the 2010 World Championship, when the Dutch also won 3-0.


“We were very excited to play the first match in the Grand Prix and could not wait to start,” Netherlands coach Gido Vermeulen said. “We played with very good discipline, good serves and good blocking strategy. The most important thing is that we maintained the discipline for all three sets.”


20130802_D-NED3-0CUBCaptain Maret Grothues added: “From the first point we were very excited to play. We applied good pressure from our serve, so our blocking and defence were very stable and we were able to play our own game.”


Netherlands (pictured in orange) also won the last time the two sides played in the Grand Prix, in 2007, when the Dutch won the gold medal. Cuba are currently ranked 13th in the world. On Saturday, Netherlands play Bulgaria (2.30pm) before China face Cuba (5.00pm).


China (2003), Netherlands (2007) and Cuba (1993, 2000) are all former World Grand Prix winners. China have finished runners-up three times (2001, 2002 and 2007), while Cuba have finished second five times.


Photos: FIVB

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