Asian Volleyball

3 favorites and a surprise: AVC semifinalists brace for KO duel

Philip Matel

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3 favorites and a surprise: AVC semifinalists brace for KO duel

FINAL FOUR. Team stars (clockwise from bottom) Angel Canino of the Philippines, Vietnam’s Vi Thi Nhu Quynh, Kazakhstan’s Sana Anarkulova, and Australia’s Caitlin Tipping look to lead their squads in the knockout AVC semifinals.

Asian Volleyball Confederation

It’s all-out action for the top four teams in the knockout semifinals of the 2024 Asian Volleyball Confederation Challenge Cup

MANILA, Philippines – The playoff cast turned out to be largely expected with favored teams Kazakhstan (world No. 30), Australia (No. 55), and tournament defending champion Vietnam (No. 38) all reaching the semifinals of the Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) Challenge Cup. 

But the Philippines, which has never gone past the preliminaries of any AVC tournament, surprisingly pulled off an elimination-round sweep to book a top four spot.

Some of the usual contenders that fell by the wayside were Indonesia (No. 59), the runner-up last year that got bunched in a tough grouping in Pool B, and the traditionally strong Chinese Taipei (No. 46), which fielded its under-18 squad.

As the eliminated teams battle in the classification phase, the final four clash in a knockout, cross-pool duel on Tuesday, May 28.

The tournament champion will punch a ticket to the 2024 FIVB Women’s Challenger Cup.

Here’s a look at the semifinal pairings set to be played at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum in Manila: 

Philippines vs Kazakhstan – May 28, 7 pm

In an unexpected run, the hastily formed Alas Pilipinas secured the top seed of Pool A after going 4-0, putting down Australia, India, Iran, and Chinese Taipei to clinch a historic semifinal berth.

Behind the impeccable setting of team captain Jia de Guzman and the soaring performance of young stars Angel Canino, Eya Laure, and Thea Gagate, this Philippines roster became the first Filipino team, regardless of gender, to make the semis of an AVC tournament.

Standing in the Filipinas’ way is Kazakhstan, which finished second in Pool B with a 3-1 record.  

The Kazakhs defeated Singapore, Indonesia, and Hong Kong, before losing to Vietnam.

But even against the defending champions, opposite hitter Sana Anarkulova uncorked 21 points to pace the Kazakhs in the losing effort.

So for the relatively inexperienced Philippine side, it will be an uphill battle as Alas faces a formidable, huge, and quick Kazakh squad determined to show who’s boss. 

Vietnam vs Australia – May 28, 4 pm

Even without the services of superstar Tran Thi Thanh Thuy – popularly known as T4 – due to injury, the Vietnamese managed to barge into the semifinals unblemished at 4-0, putting away Hong Kong, Singapore, Kazakhstan, and Indonesia in Pool B.

The Vietnamese leaned on Nguyen Thi Bich Tuyen and Vi Thi Nhu Quynh, with the pair combining for 36 points in Sunday’s four-set conquest of Indonesia. 

They’ll face an Australia side who came away with a 3-1 slate in Pool A, emerging triumphant against Chinese Taipei, India, and Iran, while yielding to Alas Pilipinas.

Opposite Caitlin Tipping has provided the scoring firepower for the Volleyroos, highlighted by a 34-point explosion in a close four-set contest against Iran on Sunday.

It’s the Volleyroos team many tipped to banner the 2032 Brisbane Olympics squad as it’s comprised mostly of players in their early 20s. 

Will T4 finally show up or will the Australians pull the rug under a much quicker and experienced Vietnamese side? – 

Must Read

Results, team standings: 2024 AVC Challenge Cup for Women

Results, team standings: 2024 AVC Challenge Cup for Women

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