JAPAN’S Suntory Sunbirds continued to soar while Indonesia’s Jakarta Bhayangkara Presisi pulled off a stunner as the pair of continental juggernauts set up a titanic clash for gold in the 2023 Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championship, being hosted by Bahrain.
The Sunbirds punched their tickets to the title-decider after a hard-earned 3-1 (25-22, 23-25, 34-32, 25-17) victory against Shahdab Yazd of Iran yesterday at Isa Sports City in Riffa.
Bhayangkara followed suit, outclassing previously undefeated Police Sports Team of Qatar, also in a four-set thriller. The Indonesians shrugged off a horrendous start to power past their Qatari counterparts 3-1 (11-25, 29-27, 25-23, 25-23).
Sunbirds and Bhayangkara will also be battling for the lone berth from this event in the 2023 FIVB Volleyball Men’s Club World Championship. The final of the 16-nation tournament is scheduled for 7pm tonight.
Losing semi-finalists Shahdab and Police will face off for the bronze medals at 4.30pm. Also on the day’s schedule are the concluding classification games, which get underway from 10am onwards. All are welcome to attend. Entrance is free.
The day’s action will be followed by the official prize presentation and closing ceremony.
The Sunbirds and Shahdab split the first two sets in their semi-final but then the Japanese rallied to take the third in thrilling fashion. They rode their momentum into the fourth set, when Russian superstar Dmitriy Muserskiy carried them to the finish line.
Muserskiy was unstoppable with 29 points, while Cuban teammate Alain Junior de Armas added 24. Mohammad Valizadeh scored 20 to pace Shahdab in defeat, while Amir Ghafour had 19.
The Sunbirds were the silver-medallists from last year’s Asian clubs event, losing to champions Paykan Tehran of Iran, who did not compete this year.
In the other semi-final, the Indonesians trailed late in the fourth set, but came away with the crucial plays to close out the match.
Ugandan Daudi Okello scored 24 points while Mohammadjav Manavinezhad added 16. Turkish player Efe Bayram had 18 points to lead the Qataris, while Estonian Oliver Venno chipped in with 15 in defeat.
Meanwhile, in the fifth-to-eighth classification bracket, Kuwait Sports Club overcame Korean Air Jumbos Pro-Volleyball Club 3-1 (28-26, 21-25, 34-32, 25-23).
Kuwait wrap up their campaign contending for fifth place overall. They will face South Gas Sports Club from Iraq, while Jumbos take on Bayankhongor Crownd Geo VC of Mongolia for seventh position. South Gas swept Bayankhongor 3-0 (25-21, 25-17, 25-16).
In the ninth-through-12th classification games, Bahrain’s Al Ahli have the chance to play for the top spot outside the elite eight after beating Taichung Bank of Chinese Taipei 3-0 (25-21, 26-24, 25-21).
Ahli will now take on Atyrau VC of Kazakhstan for ninth place overall, while Taichung face Canberra Heat of Australia for 11th.
The Kazakhs were 3-0 (25-20, 25-14, 25-17) winners against the Aussies.
In the 13th-to-16th bracket, Afghanistan’s Kam Air cruised past Yemen’s Khaypil Sports Club 3-0 (25-17, 25-21, 25-22). Kam Air will lock horns with Diamond Food Fine Chef-Air Force from Thailand for 13th place, while Khaypil will play Aspiring Volleyball Team from Hong Kong, China for 15th overall. The Thais beat Aspiring 3-0 (25-10, 27-25, 25-18).
COURT 1 - 7th place, 11.30am: Korean Air Jumbos v Bayankhongor; 5th place, 2pm: Kuwait SC v South Gas SC; Bronze medal, 4.30pm: Shahdab Yazd v Police Sports Team; Gold medal, 7pm: Suntory Sunbirds v Jakarta Bhayangkara Presisi.
COURT 2 - 15th place, 10am: Aspiring Volleyball Team v Khaypil SC; 13th place, 12.30pm: Diamond Food Fine Chef-Air Force v Kam Air; 11th place, 3pm: Taichung Bank v Canberra Heat; 9th place, 5.30pm: Al Ahli (Bahrain) v Atyrau.