DOM vs CHN 09

Li spikes over the block of Martinez and Gonzalez

China qualified for the women’s Volleyball Nations League 2022 Finals after claiming their seventh win in the competition on Friday. Following hosts Türkiye, USA, Japan and Brazil, the Asian powerhouse were the fifth team to progress after a 3-0 (25-19, 25-16, 25-15) shutout of the Dominican Republic in Sofia. China rose to fourth in the current standings on a 7-4 win-loss record, while the Caribbean Queens fell to 4-7 and 10th place, and still risk relegation.

Outside hitters Li Yingying of China and Yonkaira Pena Isabel of the Dominican Republic shared the top scorer honours of the game with 15 points each. Li registered two aces and a 50% success rate in attack, while Pena Isabel impressed with three kill blocks. China’s middle blocker and captain Yuan Xinyue and opposite Gong Xiangyu, as well as Dominican Republic’s opposite Gaila Gonzalez, signed off with 10 points each.

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Li Yingying’s top plays against the Dominican Republic

An off-the-block kill by Brayelin Martinez, followed by an ace from Gonzalez, gave the Dominicans an early 5-2 lead in the first set. However, China came back swiftly and, after two aces in a row by Li, edged forward with a 7-6 advantage. Li again hammered a pulverising pipe shot to put an end to a nice rally with some great defence on both sides of the net for 15-10. China’s 1.82m-tall setter Diao Linyu caught the attention with three kill blocks in the set with her team in control on the court on the way to a 25-19 set win, shaped up by Gong with a cross-court swing.

Diao and Pena Isabel’s successful blocks in the China v Dominican Republic match

The beginning of the second set followed a similar scenario, with Gonzalez hitting cross court for a 4-3 Dominican lead and following up with an ace to extend it to 5-3. However, a series of five points in a row, including a back-row kill by Li, an ace by Yuan and successful attacks by outside Jin Ye and playmaker Diao, put China in the lead again, with a 9-6 advantage. The Asian team cruised on to break away by a wide margin. Yuan produced the set point with an off-the-net ace for 24-15. Then, a long serve by their opponents brought the set home at 25-16 China’s way.

Yuan Xinyue’s top plays against the Dominican Republic

Scoring four in row early into the third set, China took a 5-1 lead and left the Dominicans with slim chances of a comeback. With Li spearheading the offence, they ran off with a wide lead. In the epilogue, the Caribbean side put three consecutive attacks into the net to hand China the victory at 25-15.

“We had done our homework. We pay full respect to the Dominican Republic and we planned for a difficult match,” outside hitter Jin Ye commented after the game. “We are not thinking as far as the Finals yet. We just take one game at a time.”

China’s last match of the Preliminary Round is against Korea on Sunday. The Dominicans will finish a day earlier with a match against Poland.

Friday’s action in Sofia will continue with a game between Italy and Korea, before hosts Bulgaria take on Brazil. Over in Calgary, the day’s programme features another three fixtures, Belgium v Netherlands, Türkiye v Japan and Serbia v Canada.