By The Nation
After mercilessly crushing debutantes in a completely one-sided affair in their opening match on Wednesday, Thailand fielded a strong lineup of young talents led by hard-attacking Ajcharaporn Kongyot, Chutchu-on Moksri and Pimpichaya Kokram, while Iran sent in a tall line-up steered by the 188cm Soudabeh Bagherpour and powerful Maedeh Borhani.
Iran played well in the opening match against Thailand to trail narrowly 11-16. With the rivals being hot on their heels, Thailand sent in veteran Wilavan Apinyapong to add firepower to the team. Their determination paid off immensely as the SEA Games title-holders stormed on to win the set 25-19.
The second set turned out to be a totally lop-sided battle when Ajcharaporn, Pimpichaya and Hattaya Bamrungsuk performed well to score crucial points for the team. Thailand took the easy set 25-12.
Wipawee Srithong, who scored a team-high 12 points in the Thailand’s previous match against Maldives, was sent in in the third set and she became a major force of the team, hitting balls like lightning. Iran held their nerves and fought back hard to tie the score 12-12. Highly-Experienced setter Nootsara Tomkom was sent in to strengthen the Thai squad. Her first appearance in this championship proved a great asset to the team and Thailand from then on continued their winning ways for the 25-16 triumph in the set and match.
“I think we played well in this match against Iran. Almost everyone had a chance of playing and I think the younger players will have an opportunity to gain competition experience. We next take on Chinese Taipei and they are one of the strong teams to be reckoned with in this tournament. Last year at the AVC Cup in Vietnam, we played them in five sets, so we cannot underestimate them. However, since we also come much stronger this time with young players who can replace experienced seniors, I think we should beat them again,” said Thailand’s veteran Wilavan Apinyapong.
Thailand will next go up against Taiwan in their last preliminary Pool D match on Friday. Both teams pulled off straight-set wins over Maldives and Iran in the first two days. The Friday’s match will determine the top spot in Pool D. However, with straight two wins, both Thailand and Taiwan have already been ensured their places in the last eight teams.