FM WU18 PURvsDOM (22)

The Dominican Republic and Thailand responded well to Round of 16 setbacks on Sunday and moved forward in their attempt to secure a top ten finish at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Girls’ U18 World Championship in Durango, Mexico.

On Monday, Central Americans and Asians won their first matches in the playoffs from ninth to 16th at the Auditorio del Pueblo and are guaranteed at least a 12th place in the event. The Dominicans defeated fellow Caribbean Puerto Rico 3-1 while Thai dominated Peru to a straight-set victory. The teams will now meet on Tuesday.

Earlier, Bulgaria defeated Egypt in straight sets to finish 17th in the tournament.

The Dominican Republic rebounded from a straight-set loss to Poland in the Round of 16 to triumph in the continental derby with Puerto Rico. The Dominicans recovered from a slow start to dominate their opponents in kills (48-32) and blocks (10-7), compensating the Puerto Rican higher efficiency in serving (10-5).

Dominican opposite Ariana Rodriguez, with 18 points (14 kills, three blocks, one ace), and middle blocker Alondra Tapia, with 17 (14 kills, two blocks, one ace), led all scorers. In the Puerto Rican side, opposite Ana Fuertes (12) and outside hitter Valeria Pagan (11), were the most productive.

“We always try to start every match very focused but it often takes an entire set to figure things out and adjust our game,” said Dominican setter Ailyn Liberato. “Today we wanted to use our middle blockers more than we normally do in order to explore their height advantage and that worked really well. It was one of our best performances in the tournament and now we keep going. One thing about our team is that regardless of how the match is going, we never give up, we always keep fighting.”

The only Asian team competing in the tournament, Thailand also recovered from a Round of 16 setback to Brazil to follow it up with a strong performance against Peru. The Asians were dominant from start to finish, winning the duels in blocks (10-3), aces (8-5) and opponent errors (24-17).

Sonsurat led Thailand's offense in their solid performance

Sonsurat led Thailand's offense in their solid performance

Outside hitter Ampha Sonsurat was Thailand’s top scorer with 14 points (11 kills, two blocks, one ace), followed by middle blocker Kanayat Polmasri, who produced 11 (five kills, five blocks, one ace). Peruvian captain Alondra Alarcon led her team’s efforts with 11 points, all in kills.

“We played a really good match today, I was really impressed,” Sonsurat commented. “We gave everything we had and played at our best level against Peru. Unfortunately we lost to Brazil in the Round of 16, but now we move on and keep fighting for the best possible finish. It was our first time at this stadium but I think we adjusted well. It’s obviously different and it took some time but after a few points we were adapted.”

Bulgaria secured its first victory in the tournament against Egypt to secure the 17th place in Durango. Opposite Iva Dudova starred in the European victory with 19 points (15 kills, one block, three aces) and was helped by outside hitter and team captain Viktoria Koeva, who dropped 12. In the Egyptian side, outside hitter Malak Elbehiry and middle blocker and team captain Ayatallah Ahmed produced 14 and 11, respectively.

Dudova was instrumental to Bulgaria's victory with her 19-point performance

Dudova was instrumental to Bulgaria's victory with her 19-point performance

“Today we played like a team and did a really great job,” opposite Viktoria Dimitrova analyzed. “We were helping each other and sharing your emotions and that’s how we perform at our best. We’re glad we finally showed our potential but we wish we had done it earlier in the tournament. It happens, but that’s our motivation for the next World Championship. It’s been amazing for all of us to be here. Most of us will be back in the next edition and I’m sure we’ll be stronger and determined to start better.”

Cameroon and Nigeria had been due to participate in the event; however, were unable to arrange their visas for Mexico in time and so forfeited their matches.