China back on Montreux throne after six years


China had previously won the Montreux Volley Masters in 2010, 2007, 2003, 2001 and 1990

Montreux, Switzerland, June 5, 2016 - China warmed up perfectly for the start of FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix Group 1 action next week by being crowned champions of the Montreux Volley Masters for the sixth time, taking home the coveted gold medal in a thrilling all-Asian final 3-0 (25-14, 25-20, 25-23) with Thailand, who won silver on their Montreux debut.

China and Thailand will play each other again in their opening World Grand Prix match on Friday, having been grouped with USA and Germany in Pool A1 in Ningbo. However all the focus was on Sunday’s encounter with China trying to add to their previous winning efforts in 2010, 2007, 2003, 2001 and 1990.

Meanwhile Turkey secured a podium finish, taking home the bronze medal after a 3-1 (21-25, 25-16, 25-15, 25-22) triumph over the Netherlands.

FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix 2016 - Media Guide

The bronze medal showdown was the first order of the day for Super Sunday, the closure to the 31st edition of this prestigious invitational tournament.

Beaten semi-finalists Turkey and Netherlands squared-up at Salle Omnisports Pierrer, looking to salvage the consolation of third place. It was deposed champions Turkey who would take the medal home, coming from behind to topple the Dutch 3-1. Asli Kalac held the all the aces for Turkey, plundering 18 points, seven of those from her lethal serves, whilst Melis Durul and Gözde Yilmaz also put in impressive shifts. The Turks were not at the races in the first set, but determined not to leave empty handed, they roared back, attacking with finesse to cut open the Dutch reception and take three consecutive sets to ensure the bronze medal would be going east.

That laid the red carpet for the grand finale, Thailand and China grappling for gold in front of a capacity crowd. The gold medal was heading to Asia, but would it be Bangkok or Beijing? The court was a cauldron of noise as the teams emerged, and they served up a worthy closing piece to the Montreux showcase, fraught with vision, technique, flair and brilliance. The local Thai community were out in force to support their popular team; the dark horses who won over volleyball fans across the globe. But China showed all the early intent, determined to crash the party and emerge on top as pantomime villains in the Thai fairy tale.

China’s Hui Ruoqi and Gong Xiangyu stood out once more in an iron curtain team defensive display, propelling their team into a two set lead (25-14, 25-20). There was a sense that the occasion was getting to the stricken Thais, with China capitalising relentlessly. 

The third set was the cue for Thailand to show their quality, Nootsara Tomkom’s fast, creative setting the catalyst for an impressive Thai set, the prolific Ajcharaporn Kongyot knocking the ball into holes in the Chinese reception superbly. But Chinese coach An Jiajie would pull off a masterstroke at 21-22 down, introducing ace in the hole Wang Yunlu to serve. Her distribution swung the pendulum back toward China, leading to a stunning smash to tie the set, and after Malika Kanthong’s long serve out for Thailand, Zhang Xiaoya served for the match. Liu Xiaotong was the grateful recipient of the Thai return, belting the ball home to seal gold for China 25-23, in a 3-0 (25-14, 25-20, 25-23) victory. Hui Ruoqi had led her country to glory after her comeback from heart surgery.

Although night falls over the carnival of volleyball in Montreux this year, its light will still shine for years to come. With the drama that has unfolded, the ecstasy, despair, desire and passion of players and fans alike, it has had everything required of a major tournament and with a glimpse of some of the quality that will feature in the Rio Olympics and indeed the future of volleyball, it is certain to live long in the memory of everyone involved.

Wing Spikers: Hui Ruoqi (CHN) / Ajcharaporn Kongyot (THA)
Middle Blockers: Zhang Xiaoya (CHN) / Hattaya Bamrungsuk (THA)
Setter: Nootsara Tomkom (THA)
Opposite: Gong Xiangyu (CHN)
Libero: Piyanut Pannoy (THA)
MVP: Hui Ruoqi (CHN)


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