Chinese women's volleyball team set up Serbia final at Rio Olympics

Chinese volleyballers celebrate after winning semifinals, Aug 18, 2016. Photo: Chinadaily.com.cn

Chinese women's volleyball team keeps the country's hope alive of winning a gold medal of team sport at Rio Games by beating the Olympic semifinal newcomers, the Netherlands, 3-1 here on Thursday.
 
Gong Xiangyu, the youngest player in legendary coach Lang Ping's squad, burst into tears after pulling down the penultimate point with a spike to help China win 27-25, 23-25, 29-27, 25-23 in 116 minutes.
   
China's Zhu Ting had a match-high 33 points and captain Hui Ruoqi finished with 12 points and an ace out of 27 serves, while no other Chinese reached the double digit.
   
Lonneke Sloetjes led the scores of the Dutch women on 19 as Judith Pietersen took 16 points and Celeste Plak, Robin de Kruijf and Anne Buijs added 13 each.
   
The Netherlands' best result in their previous Olympic Games appearance was a fifth finish in Atlanta 20 years ago.
   
Once losing to the opponents in the group stage, China suffered a slow start in the semifinal clash, coming back from trailing 12-5 before scoring six points in a row to narrow the margin.
   
They later overtook the lead 19-17 with a set fault from Laura Dijkema but had to see themselves denied four set points with some brilliant moves from the Netherlands including an ace from Anne Buijs, before Zhu Ting spiked twice to earn China the 27-25 win.
   
After surrendering the second set 25-23 with De Kruijf blocking Hui Ruoqi in the end, China were drawn into an even more fiercely contested third set, exchanging leads with the Dutch after a heroic comeback from 1-7 and only rounding things up till 29-27 with a spike from Zhu.
   
Leading no more than three points in the later proved decisive fourth set, the 2015 world cup winners scored a victorious score through Hui's spike to seal the win.
   
With the victory, China set up a title-vying encounter with Serbia, who made their first ever entry to an Olympic final by edging the United States 20-25, 25-17, 25-20, 16-25, 15-13.
   
It's an unprecedented feat achieved by Serbia as their previous best was a joint-fifth finish at Beijing 2008.


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