By Lerpong Amsa-ngiam
Cheers from fans could not distract the 2003 European Championship silver medalists who remained soli from start to finish as they won in straight sets 25-16 25-18 25-13, extending their impressive run to eight wins against one defeat (to Japan) after three weeks.
The Kingdom’s squad, meanwhile, have lost six matches with three wins. However, they already improved from last year where they managed only two wins out of 15 matches. They will next head for Pool 15 which consists of Brazil, Serbia and host Japan in Tokyo.
Nine defeats out of nine for debutants Bulgaria
Earlier, four-time Pan-American Cup champions Dominican Republic overcame a third-set lapse to beat Bulgaria 3-1 and hand the Europeans their ninth straight defeat.
The 2009 Grand Champion Cup bronze medallists prevailed 25-20 25-21 29-31 25-20 to collect their fifth win out of nine matches, while debutants Bulgaria were left searching for their first.
“Bulgaria played well. They made us sweat a lot out there but I’m still happy with how my players performed in this tournament,” said Dominican coach Marcos Kwiek, whose team finished 14th in the 2018 League with just three wins out of 15 matches.
Bulgarian coach Ivan Petkov saw some light at the end of the tunnel after his team took the third set but then had to accept defeat again.
“We played well against good opponents, especially in the third set. Our young players have learned from this match. We hope to finally win next week,” Petkov said.
After losing the first set, Bulgaria put up a fight and stayed neck-and-neck with Dominican until 20-all, when the Caribbean nation’s experience suddenly proved crucial.
The Dominican players intensified their attacks and tore the Bulgarian defence apart, reeling off four points in a row to take the set in 31 minutes.
With their backs to the wall, Bulgaria came from 18-16 down in the third set to challenge the Dominicans again, on the back of a solid defence. After facing several match points, they finally took the 39-minute set.
Bulgaria tried to keep the momentum going into the fourth set but it was Dominicans who raised the level of their play at crucial moments and sealed victory.
The Dominican Republic will next enter Pool 14, which also includes Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, the matches to be played in Stuttgart from June 11-13.
Bulgaria will play in Pool 18 in Ningbo against hosts China, Serbia and Germany.