Yuan inspires China to straight-sets sweep of Azerbaijan


Osaka, Japan, October 8, 2018 - China, the world's top-ranked team, swept 24th-ranked Azerbaijan 3-0 in Pool F at Osaka Municipal Central Gymnasium on Monday afternoon. In front of a large Chinese following, the Rio Olympic champions won 25-17, 25-16, 25-17 in 74 minutes to improve their win-loss record for the tournament to 6-1 with two second-round matches still to play. Azerbaijan dropped to 2-5. Middle blocker Yuan Xinyue dominated the centre of the net with a team-high 17 points, including five service aces, Gong Xiangyu added 13 and captain Zhu Ting 12.

Azerbaijan were subdued by China's block and excellent defence and Polina Rahimova was their leading scorer with a modest 11 points, supported by Olena Hasanova with nine and Yelyzaveta Samadova with eight.

In the early stages, China felt the full force of Rahimova, who had been used sparingly the previous day, and Jana Kulan was also restored to the starting six by head coach Faig Garayev.

Coming into this game with 121 points, Rahimova scored on spike and also with her booming jump serves to knock China back on their heels.

China have plenty of support for captain Zhu Ting, notably Gong Xiangyu and middle blocker Yan Ni, and Azerbaijan called a TO trailing 20-16. China's sturdy block saw them home 25-17.

Yuan's floating serves caused Azerbaijan all sorts of problems at the start of the second set and Zhu leapt mightily from the left for another unstoppable winner as China looked in a hurry.

Azerbaijan's serve reception was in tatters at this point and they trailed 8-3 at the first TTO. Olena Hasanova at the net and Kulan on the right gave Azerbaijan hope but the Chinese were on fire and raced ahead 13-6 to send the Europeans into a TO.

The Azerbaijan block snuffed out three Chinese attacks in quick succession and China went into a TO with their lead cut to 16-13, and Yelyzaveta Samadova added an ace on the return.

Yuan was having a great game for China and her block on Kulan hurried her team to the second set 25-16.

Azerbaijan started the third set strongly with Hasanova again prominent at the net and Kulan smashing home a loose ball on the way to a three-point lead at the first TTO.

Yuan, inevitably, led China's revival and Zhang Changning scored with an elegant soaring spike from the back court as China reached the second TTO ahead 16-12 and primed for a final push. Yan Ni kept China moving forward and they raced to 25-17.


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