Chinese victory eliminates Russia from World Championship
Every Chinese point was greeted by a sea of red flags and yellow thunderstix in the stands as middle blocker Yan Ni led the scoring with 16 points, including six blocks, and fellow middle blocker Yuan Xinyue scored 15 with four aces.
For Russia, Kseniia Parubets and Irina Voronkova both scored 25 points.
The two teams traded super spikes from the outset, with Kseniia Parubets and Irina Voronkova prominent for Russia and China replying through Zhang Changning and the in-form Gong Xiangyu. Even though Russia served fast and hard, China's reception was top-class and allowed them to turn defence into attack.
Russia's serve let them down as they tried to catch China at the business end of the first set, persistently serving into the net, and China had four set points at 24-20. China called a TO after missing the first two and they turned to Zhu Ting, soaring from the back court, to finish the job 25-22.
Voronkova continued to menace the China defence and Parubets pulled off a crunching block on Gong to lift Russian spirits at the start of the second set. Parubets was flying and a service ace carried Russia to 8-4 at the first TTO. When Russia led 11-6, China replaced Zhang with the left-hander Li Yingying, but there was no stopping the athletic Voronkova. China had gone quiet and called a TO with a six-point deficit at 14-8.
Li and another lefty, Zeng Chunlei, gave the Russian block fresh problems and Russia called a TO with a four-point lead at 15-11. Olga Biryukova moved Russia closer but China's improved block held up Russia's progress. Yan Ni's floating ace made it a one-point set, 21-20 to Russia, who promptly called a TO.
The brilliant Voronkova, Anna Kotikova and Parubets created three set points at 24-21 and Russia took the second set 25-21 for 1-1. Parubets (15) and Voronkova (13) had scored 28 points between them during the first two sets.
Gong, who had been taken off during the second set, was back in business in the third and reminded everyone of her talent, and when Yuan Xinyue served an ace and China led 10-7, Russia called a TO.
The Russian defence improved quickly as they recycled the Chinese attacks and set up the chances for Voronkova and Parubets in particular to keep the points and the momentum flowing. China needed a lift and the southpaw spiker Li gave it to them, bringing China level 20-20 and sending Russia into a TO. In a tension-packed finish, Yan Ni clinched the third set 25-23 on China's second set point for 2-1. Li scored nine points in the third set.
In the third set, China led by three, 8-5, at the first TTO thanks to Yuan and lefty Li, who could do no wrong at this stage of the proceedings. Russia called a TO down 11-6 and returned to see their attacks rejected by China's excellent block led by Yuan. China led 16-11 at the second TTO and 20-12 before closing out the fourth set 25-15 and the match 3-1.
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