Gong Xiangyu led China to an easy opening win over hosts Switzerland
Montreux, Switzerland, June 6, 2017- It was the moment volleyball fans around the globe were looking forward to: the big opening game of the 32nd Montreux Volley Masters had finally come. And it was holders China who saw their defence of last year’s gold medal get off to the perfect start in Pool A, after brushing aside host nation Switzerland in straight sets (25-15, 25-16, 25-16) at Salle Omnisports Pierrier.
China’s Olympic gold medallists Gong Xiangyu and Li Jing took charge as the six-time Montreux Masters champions set about dismantling their opponents from the start. From the moment An Jiajie’s side registered their first point with Gao Yi’s block, their dominance showed. The opening point set the tone for a victory that would owe much to China’s cast-iron defence, with 17 block points overall being shared around the Chinese side; Gong Xiangyu the notable contributor with six across the whole match. Creditably, the Swiss remained in touch for long periods of the first set, Maja Storck proving a thorn in China’s side with seven points of her own. Yet the inexperience of the hosts paled in comparison to China’s quality, and gold medallist Liu Xiaotong made her presence count with three points to help her side comfortably take the first set 25-15.
The Swiss started the second set the brighter of the two teams, stunning the Chinese with four unanswered points and prompting China coach An Jiajie to call timeout. From there China re-exerted their authority, Gong Xiangyu hitting another six points as the Chinese slammed the brakes on the early Swiss momentum and re-established the lead. The agility of China Libero Lin Li thwarted the hosts on numerous occasions with her intelligent play, along with big blocks from Gong Xiangyu, Zheng Yixin and Li Jing. China had the edge, particularly in the longer rallies, and eventually Wang Yuanyuan’s set-point block handed China a 2-0 lead.
By now China were in complete command, and although Switzerland started the third set positively with a 3-2 lead after a Kunzler block, they faded once more against their more experienced opponents. Wang Yuanyuan’s spike opened an early 6-4 lead in the third set, which knocked the stuffing out of the Swiss as their rearguard was unable to beat back China’s succession of big hits. Gao Yi was influential at the net for China, with a string of blocks to keep the hosts comfortably at arm’s length and putting pain to any hopes of a dream comeback. For every point Switzerland managed, China responded, the experienced Liu Xiaotong’s spiking continuing to cause problems. The hosts were defiant but could not withstand Li Jing’s strong hitting, nor find a way past her blocking, and it was her beautifully nonchalant block right at the death which sealed the third set 25-16 and handed China a comprehensive 3-0 victory to begin their campaign in dream fashion.
The beaten hosts will attempt to kick-start their campaign in their second Pool A match on Wednesday when they take on the Netherlands, but it was a perfect start for the defending champions, who will be gunning for their seventh title here in Montreux. On this showing, they may well prove a force to be reckoned with on the Swiss Riviera once again.