Setter Ponpun Gedpard and outside hitter Wipai Sittong have been the standout performers for the Thai women’s national volleyball team. IBK and Hyundai E&C are smiling thanks to the presence of the two players who will be playing in the Korean V-League in the 2023-24 season.

Korea and Thailand met in the final match of Week 1 of the 2023 FIVB Volleyball Nations League (VNL) at the Antalya Sports Hall in Antalya, Turkey on 4 April at 8:00pm (local time). The match ended with a 3-0 (25-17, 28-26, 25-21) victory for Thailand.메이저사이트

Thailand’s outside hitter Chatchuon Moksri was the top scorer for both teams on the day with 20 kills. She had two blocks, two aces and 16 points from her attacks alone. Apojit Pimpichaya Kokram also chipped in with 13 points, including one block, while veteran middle blocker Thadao Nukjang led the way with 11 points on seven blocks alone.

Notably, Thailand dominated Korea in team blocking with a 13-5 advantage. Thailand finished Week 1 with a 2-2 record.

Korea was led by outside hitter Park Jung-ah (Pepper Savings Bank) with 14 points to go along with three blocks, while Apojit Moon Ji-yoon (GS Caltex) had nine points in a bold attack. Lee Ju-ah and Jung Ho-young added eight and seven points respectively. Korea held three- and four-point leads in the second and third sets with sharp serving, steady defence, and attacks that took advantage of their opponents’ blocking, but conceded consecutive points late in the sets to suffer the defeat. Korea went 0-3 against Thailand after losing to Turkiye, Canada and the United States in Week 1. It was the fourth consecutive match in which they went scoreless.

Thailand’s 14-man roster for Week 1 included some familiar names. Ponpun, Wipai and Apojit Tanacha Sooksot (Korea Expressway Corporation), who will be making their V-League debut in the first Asian quarterfinal of the year, travelled to Turkuye.

Ponpun, born in 1993, joined the national team after a break from the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) just before the VNL. Starting from the first match, Ponpun is currently the VNL’s No. 1 setter. In four matches, he has won 79 sets. That’s 19.75 per game. Her set winning percentage is 20.68 per cent. She is in a fierce battle for the top spot with Canadian setter Bree King.

Ponpun utilised four different attackers in the front row and back row, as Thailand has been known to do. She runs a fast-paced attack with her outside hitters, trying to get past the opposition’s high blocking, and leads the younger players alongside captain libero Piyanut Panoy.

According to Thai media outlet MGR, Ponpun said after the match, “We trained hard and were able to win thanks to good blocking by Thadao. We plan to do our best in the future,” he said after Week 1.

In April, IBK head coach Kim Ho-cheol selected Ponpun with the No. 1 pick in the Asian Quarterly Draft. At the time, Kim said, “I thought he would be a good fit for our team’s fast-paced offence and height. When I watched the Thai national team play in international competitions, I felt she was the best fit for our team.” The setter was a perfect fit for the fast-paced volleyball that Kim emphasised. That’s exactly what Ponpun is doing on the VNL stage in a Thai jersey.

Hyundai E&C is also keeping an eye on the newest member of the team. Wipai is not a starter. He is being used as a substitute to strengthen the defence at the back. Against South Korea, she replaced outside hitter Acharaporn Kongyot in the back row to serve and defend, and in the third set, she moved up to the front row and unleashed an onslaught. She finished with five points, including one block. She used her speed to her advantage, despite her short 5-foot-9 frame, and also showed off her ability to move around the court to get past blockers, even when attacking from the left side.

Wipai also scored 18 points in his last game against Canada. With Acharaphon suffering a minor injury in Week 1, Wipai has stepped up as a fireman. While his height is a weakness, it’s being utilised at the right time.

Hyundai E&C lost Hwang Min-kyung, the “salaryman,” to free agency this year, and Ko Yerim is out for the 2023-24 season due to surgery. Even libero Kim Ju-ha has decided to retire. Kim was brought in to compensate for the departure of Hwang Min-kyung, but he is more of an attacker than a defender. In desperate need of defensive reinforcements, Hyundai E&C also brought in Go Go-ji and Wei Pai. He is gaining valuable experience in international competitions. He is also recognised for his defensive ability. It will be interesting to see if Hyundai E&C can show its competitiveness.

Meanwhile, Thailand will also be travelling to Brasilia, Brazil, alongside Korea, for the second week of the VNL.

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