By Preechachan Wiriyanuparppong
The 190cm Tran Thi Thanh Thuy registered 22 attacks, one block and 2 aces for Vietnam, while Le Thanh Thuy, Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hoa and Ha Ngoc Diem all scored on double figures, contributing 18, 17 and 15 points respectively to the winning side. Mahsa Saberi led Iran with 16 points including 11 kills from 38 attempts. Neda Chamlanian added 13 points including 5 aces.
Vietnam made a shaky start in the opening set when their game was riddled with unforced mistakes, leaving the Iranians to set an early pace 15-10. The Iranians stretched it to 17-24, needing only one more point to win the set. However, Vietnam gradually pulled their game and hit back with attacks from Tran Thi Thanh Thuy and Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hoa to save 7 set points. Iran took the remaining two points to clinch the first set 26-24.
Going down one set, Vietnam played solidly in the second set, with Ha Ngoc Diem and Tran Thi Thanh Thuy leading the Vietnam’s offence. Consistency and confidence put Vietnam in front with a wide margin lead 14-7, but the young Iranians started to cope well with the Vietnamese tactics after that. They blocked, attacked and served well to catch up with Vietnam at 18-all. However, Vietnam, which finished fifth place at the last month’s Asian Senior Women’s Championship in Philippines after showing remarkable runs including surprising wins over Chinese Taipei and Kazakhstan, regained their composure. Veteran Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hoa helped Vietnam break even at 25-22.
Both sides set up a hard-fought duel in the opening of the third set which saw the scores levelled at 11-11. Vietnam regained their form, with Tran Thi Thanh Thuy and Ha Ngoc Dium attacking and Tran Thi Thanh Thuy and Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hoa producing impenetrable blocks. Vietnam took the set 25-17 to hold a 2-1 advantage.
In the fourth set, Vietnam dominated the whole game, while Iran fought hard to turn the tables on the stronger rivals, but things turned sour for the young Iranians. Vietnam went on aggressive attacks to win the set 25-19 and match.
Vietnam head coach Japanese Irisawa Hidehiro commented after the match: “It was a very difficult match. We lost the first set because, I think, we have played Iran for several times and they started to learn our tactics. Actually, I admit that we had a tight schedule ahead of this tournament. After the Asian Championship in Manila last month, we then competed in the South East Asian Games. After the SEA Games, some of my players had injuries and a few had a bad condition on mentality. That’s why we could not combine good players with hard training in preparation for this tournament. Still, I’m happy with my team’s performance. After this, I will train U19 Vietnamese players to seek young talents to join the future national Vietnamese team.”