The entire Chinese team gathered in a circle for a brief celebration that looked more like a formality than an emotional outcry.
With the spike by Katrina Lazovic called out, China successfully defended their title with one game to spare as they defeated Serbia 3-0 here on Saturday to record their 10th consecutive win at the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Cup.
“Firstly, this competition hasn’t ended yet, so I didn’t feel like celebrating too much today. Secondly, we have won many games recently, so this is sort of getting normal and I’m kind of getting used to it,” head coach Lang Ping explained for her composure after the win.
Star spiker Zhu Ting had the game-high 18 points in the 25-14, 25-21, 25-16 victory, followed by Zhang Changning, who contributed 16 points, including three kill blocks where China bested Serbia 10-2. Tournament leading scorer Ana Bjelica scored 15 points for the European side.
“I think we are a better team now because every one of us has made progress,” Zhu told Xinhua, adding that she preferred to celebrate after the last match on Sunday.
With a perfect 9-0 record prior to the match, China will lift the World Cup one round in advance should they triumph over the reigning world champions, which dispatched a young squad to Japan.
After a close start, Zhu had five points in China’s 8-1 run for a 13-8 lead. After an error by Ding Xia in her sixth serving in a row, Zhang added another five points to initiate a 9-2 surge for China before the world No.2 comfortably took the first set 25-14.
“We had the plan to push the opponents early in the game and I was in the front row, so I felt I should shoulder the attacking responsibility,” Zhu spoke of her strong start.
Serbia rounded into better form in the second set with Bjelica, Lazovic and Maja Aleksic creating troubles for China’s defense. But the defending champions were also sharp in attacks, as Gong Xiangyu, Zhang and Zhu took turns to put China ahead after Serbia managed to catch up 11-11, 15-15 and 18-18. China had a 5-1 run for a 23-19 lead and Lazovic’s spike error gave away Serbia’s chance to pull one back 25-21.
China carried on the momentum into the third set with a 6-1 start and headed into the second technical timeout 16-10 with five players contributing points whereas captain Bjelica fought all alone trying to lift up the world No.1 out of the mire of errors. The back-to-back European champions closed the game with a 4-0 run to trail by 20-16 and forced China to a timeout, which worked for the four-time winners as they claim five points in a row to seal the victory 25-16.
This is China’s fifth World Cup title following their victory in 1981, 1985, 2003 and 2015.
“We have a longer goal in mind: to win gold at the Olympic Games next year and I think the win here will encourage us to fight for it,” Yuan Xinyue said.
China will play their last match against Argentina on Sunday before they could stand on top of the podium on the awarding ceremony.