Hangzhou, Sep 22 (IANS) India last won a medal in volleyball in the Asian Games 37 years ago. On Friday, the Indian men's team set themselves up for a shot at the medals when it defeated Chinese Taipei for their third successive victory in the knockout rounds for the first time in more than three decades.
In a cross-match for the Top 12 positions on Friday, India defeated Chinese Taipei 3-0 (25-22, 25-22, 25-21 in one hour and 20 minutes at the China Textile City Sports Centre Gymnasium.
It was a great performance by the Indian team as Chinese Taipei had won the bronze medal in the 2018 Games. India will now meet former champions Japan in the quarterfinals. If they win that match, India will get into the semifinals and be in medal contention.
Overall, India has won a silver and two bronze medals in volleyball at the Asian Games, their last medal -- a bronze -- coming at Seoul in 1086.
In the 19th Asian Games here, India had started with a 3-0 win against Cambodia and then stunned South Korea, silver medallist in the Jakarta Asian Games in 2018, 3-2 in their second match. That them up for a Cross Match against Chinese Taipei who had finished second in Pool D after losing to Pakistan 3-0 and beating Mongolia by the same margin.
On Friday, India fought back after conceding the lead in the first two sets while the Chinese Taipei team negated their lead but the Indians fought back again to win the match.
"In the first set, they had a four-point lead at one time. But we fought back strongly and went on to win the set. It was a good match in a crazy sense of way but we managed to do well. For us libero Hari Prasad played well. Me, Ashwal, and Amit had a steady game and played at the same standard," said skipper Vinit Kumar.
He said they did not expect the match to end in straight sets. "I was expecting a tougher match, at least to go to four sets if not five. They are experienced players and play at a fast pace. But we managed to match their pace," said Vinit.
In the final analysis, wing spiker Amit scored 16 points for India while skipper Vinit Kumar contributed 12 points. Middle blocker Ashwat pulled off five blocks from 9 attempts while also effecting eight spikes for 14 points (one point off an ace serve).
Setter Apapvu Muthusamy said the team was confident of victory from the start and said their service and block worked well on Friday.
"We came into the match confident that we could win. Our service and our block worked, so we are glad," he said.
Appavu said their focus now will be on the match against Japan as that will get them into the semifinals.
"If we win the next match against Japan and qualify for the semi-finals then we will be confident that we can win a medal. It would be great to go to the final.
"Tomorrow (Saturday) there are no matches, we will rest, and then we will find out how we can beat them," he said.
The Indian team's head coach Jaideep Sarkar said he was confident of his team beating Chinese Taipei as Pakistan had beaten the same team in three sets a couple of days back.
"I was expecting such a result as Pakistan had beaten the same team 3-0 in the league phase. We were confident of winning as we are playing well and the confidence is high," he said.
About the next match against Japan, the head coach said his boys were confident going into that match. "They are a tough and strong team. But today's win has given a morale booster for us and with the morale so high, the boys can do anything," said Sarkar after the match.
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