Yuan Xinyue drives China to opening win over Cuba


Cuba fought hard against Olympic champions China

Sapporo, Japan, September 29, 2018 – China’s volleyball players may live in the shadow of superstar captain Zhu Ting, but they also have the ability to stamp their own mark on a match. Yuan Xinyue matched Zhu’s 16 points in China’s 3-0 (25-12, 25-23, 25-14) win over Cuba in the FIVB Women’s World Championship on Saturday but she was the star of the show, coming up with some big points when it mattered, including seven super blocks.

Olympic champions China had a total of 17 blocking points against a lively Cuba team at Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center, but Cuba’s 27 digs – against 23 for China – tells its own story. Cuba fought hard and did brilliantly considering nine of the squad of 12 are teenagers. Egli Sabin, 27, is the only Cuba player over the age of 21.

China eased into an 8-4 lead at the first technical timeout of the match and they maintained a 2:1 scoring ratio over their opponents, moving to 10-5 and then 16-8 at the second TTO. Zhu Ting, while being known for her power, also showed her clever volleyball brain with soft touches and neatly placed shots. But Cuba weren’t giving the impression they were overawed, always looking for a chance to lay down a power shot, with captain Diaris Perez, who won’t be 20 until November, blasting down some power drives. China coach Lang Ping made some late substitutes and one of these, Zeng Chunlei, sealing the set at 25-12.

In the first half of the second set, Zhu Ting was almost a bystander as Yuan Xinyue and Zhang Changing turned up the heat for China, but when they were off the court, Cuba edged back into the game. Perez showed her own cleverness with a magnificent crossnet pushover to make the score 18-15 and when the scores reached 19-17 to China, Lang Ping called a timeout. A missed shot by Yan Ni allowed Cuba to creep to within two points at 23-21 and an ace by Jessica Aguilera made things really sticky for China. Left-handed teenager Li Yingying delivered setpoint with a shot down the middle but China fell asleep on a soft shot and the score was a dangerous 24-23. A block closed the set for China, but China had been given a warning that Cuba meant business.

Cuba earned the first point of the third set when Li Yingying couldn’t handle Cuba’s first serve, but Zhu Ting didn’t mess around getting that point back with a thunderous drive through the Cuban defence. After leading 8-4 at the first TTO, Zhu looked determined to the point of anger as her team allowed Cuba to get back into the game. She came up with a block and a thunderbolt spike at 11-9 – following a Chinese timeout – to give China some breathing space and they were five points ahead at the second TTO. Yuan Xinyue then turned up the heat with spikes and blocks and China pulled away to a comfortable victory, Yuan ending the match with two more power drives.


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