Kobe, Japan, September 30, 2018 - Azerbaijan opened their win account on the second day of Pool C play with a 3-1 victory over Korea at Kobe Green Arena on Sunday.
Having lost to USA the previous day, Azerbaijan won 25-18, 25-18, 23-25, 25-18 to improve their win-loss record to 1-1. Korea dropped to 0-2, despite winning three sets to date.
Polina Rahimova led Azerbaijan with 24 points, including 20 spikes, and Jana Kulan added 18, with 16 winners. The Koreans replied through captain Kim Yeon Koung and Park Jeongah, both of whom scored 19 points.
The Koreans must have been feeling the effects of their gruelling five-setter the previous evening against Thailand, but knew they would have to be fully focused from the start against this talented Azerbaijan team.
As well as the giant spikers Rahimova and Kulan, Azerbaijan have plenty of other fine all-round players, such as middle blockers Olena Hasanova and Aynur Imanova and captain Odina Aliyeva.
The incredible reflexes of Korean libero Kim Hae Ran enabled her team to turn defence into attack, with captain Kim and Park Jeongah - 41 points between them against Thailand - to provide a constant supply of points.
Some ferocious jump serves from captain Odina Aliyeva further unsettled the Koreans, who could not catch up to Azerbaijan and lost the first set 25-18.
There was no respite from the power and aggression of Azerbaijan in the second set for Korea, whose defence was bulldozed by the jump serves of Rahimova.
The Europeans were flying at 17-8 but had to call two Time Outs in quick succession as the gallant Koreans threatened a comeback with some improved blocking. The Azerbaijan players returned to close out the second set 25-18 for 2-0.
The Koreans gave their boisterous, flag-waving supporters plenty to cheer at the start of the third set as they went into the first TTO 8-7 ahead and staying in touch as the set progressed.
The Koreans would not let go, and when Rahimova spiked into the net the Koreans led 23-22 and Azerbaijan called a TO. On their second set point, Park Jeongah clinched the third set for Korea 25-23 to reduce the deficit to 2-1.
Azerbaijan needed to regroup quickly to prevent the match from going the distance, whereas the Koreans knew the longer they stayed in a rally, the better their chances of blunting the Azerbaijan attack.
The sprightly wing spiker Lee Jaeyeong, at 1.79 metres, added to the Azeri concerns and captain Kim remained a constant threat as the Koreans raised their game.
The pumped-up Kulan clearly did not want a fifth set and the elusive Hasanova pounced at the net again to lead Azerbaijan into the second TTO ahead 16-12. From this point, Azerbaijan were able to maintain their cushion and finish the match 25-18 with a crunching Rahimova winner.