Shanghai win historic China men's title after epic battle
Shanghai Golden Age celebrate their 13th China League title after epic win over Beijing Auto.
After losing twice to Shanghai, hosts Beijing knew they had no choice but win the match in front of their home fans. However, the rampaging defending champions Shanghai were just too strong to be defeated, leaving Beijing Auto again in second place.
At the very beginning of the first set, Shanghai outscored Beijing who seemed to get off to a slow start. But this rhythm did not last too long and Beijing were able to turn the tide to a three points lead at 11-8, benefiting from some excellent serves from USA's Taylor Sander. Beijing took advantage of this momentum to contribute more points to the team's tally until Shanghai caught up and took the lead 21-20. Beijing conceded the first set 25-23.
Set two saw both teams trading early points until Beijing pulled away to a 11-8 lead and managed to keep control through the whole set. With the perfect fit among the two foreigners, Cuba's Oreol Camejo and Sander, and rising star Jiang Chuan, Beijng eventually finished the set off 25-22.
The third set was tight from the start and a series of lead changes followed when the score was deadlocked for several times before Shangai broke away to a slim 14-11 lead. Shanghai's frontline was persistent on offence and defense as they continued to ride the strong play of their wing spikers. All the opponents could do was to play catch-up. The Shanghai squad sealed the set 25-22.
Shanghai opened up a lead making fewer unforced errors than Beijing, leading 8-6 in the fourth set. Deadlocks were the story of this crucial set as both teams tied their scores fiercely from 8-8, 12-12, 16-16, 21-21 and 22-22. Beijing went to all lengths to give the audience what they wanted, widening their gap by strengthening their block and attack to a two point's edge. Eventually, it was Beijing that won this set at 25-23.
Beijing capitalized on the momentum built in the previous set and lead 4-2 at the very beginning of the tie-breaker. However, with tough serving and precise attacking, Shanghai started to control the frame through the end of this set. Although Beijing still would not give up their dream, it proved that it was Shanghai that showed poise more determinedly. Shanghai Golden Age closed this set with a comfortable 15-9 and won the match 3-2.
Shanghai's Gyorgi Grozer of Germany topped the scoring charts with 36 points, while Argentina's Facundo Conte contributed 20 points. Oreol was the best scorer of Beijing with 27 points but could not lift his team to victory.
Shen Qiong, the former captain of China National squad, had already achieved great success as a player since he helped Shanghai won consecutive 9 National Champions from 2003-04 to 2011-12 Seasons. The 36-year-old added another gold medal to his long list of outstanding achievements. "Tonight probably could be our last chance, we have already lost the match at home on Thursday. If we allow them a one-week period for adjustment, the Final Champions might not be us," Shen said.
Shanghai have won the Chinese men's national league title thirteen times since 1999. The team dominated from 1999 to 2000, and with a long title-winning streak in 2003 to 2012. After missing the title in 2013 and 2014 to Beijing, they redeemed themselves in the 2015 to 2017 seasons.
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