Montreux, Switzerland, September 4, 2018- FIVB World Number One, China, got their campaign off to the perfect start at the 33rd Montreux Masters in Pool A, easing aside host-nation Switzerland in a comprehensive 3-0 (25-21, 25-14, 25-10) triumph.
It was the potent trio of Liu Yanhan, Hu Mingyuan and Gong Xiangyu that concocted the recipe for success for the Women from the Middle Kingdom here, the three registering a combined 35 points to propel last year’s Bronze medallists to a convincing win, thus laying down a clear marker of their title credentials, and their quality, ahead of the FIVB World Championships taking place three weeks after this competition.
The reigning Olympic champions did make uncharacteristically hard work of the opening set against their plucky opponents, but their touches of quality edged the opening exchanges against the hosts, who were left to rue a string of individual errors. Laura Kunzler’s double touch at the net, as well as her failed block shortly after gave China breathing space early on, but an almighty smashed spike from Zaugg and a delicate touch over the net from Storck forced a brief 14-14 stalemate midway through the first set in a competitive opening exchange. After a Liu Xiatong reception error and a strong Kunzler spike had Switzerland briefly in front at 17-18, a mix-up in defence allowed China to level, before some excellent build-up play for Gong Xiangyu eased China ahead 22-20. Two errors from Swiss Libero Deprati put the visitors at set point, with a Storck and Sulser blockout handing China the set 25-21.
Now in the driving seat, An Jiajie’s team sought about stamping their authority on the match, and they propelled themselves into an 11-4 second set lead with spikes from Hu Mingyuan and Yang Hanyu amongst the highlights. The blocking game of the Chinese, coupled with their ability to judge when to spike and when to opt for the deft touch over the net, began to outfox the Swiss, China answering their every attack with potent efficiency. Wu Han did superbly with a cute dink over the rim of the net to clinch a thrilling rally for a 17-11 Chinese lead in the second set,, before Yang Hanyu came up trumps at the net with a block of her own to put China on set point at 24-12. At the third time of asking they extended their advantage, a spike from Wu Han sealing a 25-14 second set triumph, the Chinese now within one of victory.
From such a platform, China were not about to loosen their grip on proceedings. Their iron-curtain defence proved the bane of the Swiss again as Liu Yanhan, Liu Xiatong and Hu Mingyuan all notched points from the block to open an 11-2 lead, with some impressive spiking from Gong Xiangyu and Duan Fang adding some edge to the Chinese’s third set display. Libero Liu Lin was displaying excellent reading of the game and agility in building China’s counter-attacking moves, having started a fluid piece of play to set up for Duan Fang’s point. Swiss Libero Deprati was unable to handle Gong Xiangyu’s spiking twice in succession, as the visiting Wing Spiker hammered down for a 20-8 lead at the second attempt, prior to a smooth buildup and cute setup for Hu Mingyuan to power a spike down the centre for 23-10. It was the impressive Mingyuan who would eventually seal the game, rising at the net to block and touch down to seal a comprehensive victory with her 12th individual point.
China will look to build momentum in Pool A from their opening win in their second match on Wednesday as they take on Italy (05.09.18. 18:45 CET), whilst Switzerland will look to bounce back from defeat against the same opponents when they return to action on Thursday (06.09.18. 16:30 CET)..