Nanjing, China, July 1, 2018 - China gave their fans plenty to cheer about on Sunday as captain Zhu Ting's 20 points led them to a 3-0 (25-18, 25-22, 25-22) sweep of Brazil and into third place in the inaugural FIVB Volleyball Nations League.
The Chinese had been somewhat inconsistent throughout the VNL but it all clicked on Sunday against the South Americans, with star wing spiker Zhu leading all scorers with a tally that included 18 kills, a block and an ace. The home fans were quite obviously delighted also with the showing of 18-year-old rising star Li Yingying, given a starting spot at opposite in this play-off and rewarding her coach's faith in her by contributing 14 points from 13 kills and an ace.
The Brazilians worked hard but it seemed like one match too many after an arduous VNL campaign where they have delighted fans across the globe with their attacking flair. Leading the way all tournament for them had been wing spiker Tandara Caixeta and she was again the mainstay of their efforts on Sunday, with 15 points that included 14 kills and an ace.
Among others to have performed all tournament - and again on Sunday - were wing spiker Gabriela Guimaraes who added 11 points, all from kills, and middle blocker Adenizia Da Silva, who added nine points that included three stuffs.
Zhu had promised a better personal performance after the disappointment of Saturday's night's 3-1 loss to the USA - a match in which she still top-scored for China with 18 points. The skipper duly delivered - as did Li, following up her sensational effort in that loss the night before when she was substituted on during the third period but still ended the match with 14 points.
Third place is some consolation for the Rio Olympic Games gold medallists. Coach Lang Ping had said before the VNL started that she wanted to use the tournament to test out China's next generation of stars on the world stage and in that regard there has been plenty for Chinese fans to cheer - and to look forward to in the future. The likes of Li - and also 20-year-old middle blocker Yi Gao, who was given a few cameo appearances - have shown they can mix it with the best there is.
The Brazilians will no doubt fly out of China wondering what might have been. They had begun the VNL finals series with straight sets wins over the Netherlands and China before being upset by Turkey (3-2) in the semifinals, and then finding the Chinese in irresistible form in the third-fourth place playoff on Sunday.