Kobe, Japan, October 4, 2018 - Thailand produced another dazzling display to beat Azerbaijan 3-1 in Pool C at Kobe Green Arena on Thursday afternoon and record their third victory of the first round. The Thais, whose only two defeats have been in tiebreakers against both Russia and the United States, won 25-22, 15-25, 25-19, 25-17 to drop Azerbaijan's win-loss record to 2-3.
Sittirak Onuma led the Thai scoring with 24 points, including 21 spikes, and Kanthong Malika added 16 - all of them spikes.
For Azerbaijan, Polina Rahimova top-scored with 25 points, including 22 spikes, and Jana Kulan noteched 14 with 13 spikes.
The Thais started the match without two of their key players, Kokram Pimpichaya and Kongyot Ajcharaporn, due to injury and, in their absence, the veterans Wilavan, Onuma and Malika took the game to Azerbaijan.
The tall Azerbaijan spikers knew they would have to work hard for their points against the sprightly Thai defence and so it proved as Thailand led 16-14 at the second TTO of the first set.
As the set progressed, Aynur Imanova, Jana Kulan and Polina Rahimova began to find a way past the block and through the ground defence and Thailand needed a TO with their lead cut to one at 21-20.
The ever reliable Wilavan, leaping prodigiously from her 1.74-metre frame, closed out the first set 25-22 on Thailand's second set point.
Azerbaijan tried to step it up in the second set. Rahimova sent over a scorching ace, Yelyzaveta Samadova spiked powerfully from the left and the signs looked good with a four-point advantage.
With Olena Hasanova and Kulan adding to the tally, Azerbaijan led 16-12 at the second TTO. Rahimova was finding her groove and the Azerbaijan block kept Thailand at bay as they took the second set 25-15 for 1-1.
Onuma's spike from the left early in the third set had the crowd gasping and Thailand led 8-6 at the first TTO. The players returned and produced an incredible rally in which Wilavan retrieved the ball hanging over the back-court board and Pleumjit finished at the net - summing up everything captivating about the Thai game.
Pleumjit was becoming more influential as the third set progressed and Nuekjang Thatdao - the tallest member of the Thai team at 1.84m - pulled off a crashing block to extend the Thai lead.
Although Natalya Mammadova gave Azerbaijan hope, the superb Thatdao ended the third set 25-19 for 2-1 Thailand.
In the fourth set, Samadova, captain Odina Aliyeva and Rahimova led the Azerbaijan response but they were starting to look tired in the face of the non-stop blue barrage on the other side of the net.
Malika, Onuma and Wilavan, together with the middle blocking team of Thatdao and Pleumjit, were sensing victory and maintained their furious pace. The Nootsara-Pleumjit combination clicked into gear and the Thais were home 25-17.