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Liu inspires China to comfortable win over Russians

 

Jiangmen, China, June 6, 2018 - Outside hitter Liu Xiaotong led by example with a match-best 15 points as China got another win on the board by downing Russia 3-0 (25-21, 25-19, 25-22) in fourth-round action at the FIVB Volleyball Nations League on Wednesday night.

In the whole scheme of things it's more about improvement than victories at this stage for China, given they have already qualified for the VNL finals as host. Coach Lang Ping has gradually pulled her team sheet together, after early tinkering, and it's of course built around its star in captain Zhu Ting, who contributed 13 points. 

But the legendary Chinese mentor must be pleased by the sight of the likes of wing spiker Liu and middle blocker Yuan Xinyue (12 points) finding form the longer the VNL plays out. 

There's not been so many pleasing sights for the Russians, however, who will be looking for some way to turn their form around, given the VNL finals are now only a few weeks away. Wing spiker Irina Voronkova was strong again in a losing cause with 15 points, as was wing spiker Kseniia Parubets with 13 points. But they'll want to arrest the slide they're experiencing in Jiangmen - and fast.

It was China's sixth win out of their past seven matches against the Russians in world level play, while the victory helped China avoid their first 0-3 run since the 2016 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix.

More important, though, was the fact that the world's number one ranked team continue to improve. Tuesday night's 3-2 loss in an epic clash against Brazil could have gone either way and also showed there's more to this Chinese squad than Zhu, star that she undoubtedly is.

Yuan again showed flashes of brilliance with four blocks in her tally of 12 points to back up the 16 points she had against Brazil, while the likes of opposite spiker Gong Xiangyu have been solid in support of their captain.

A real worry for Russian coach Vadim Pankov heading forward is that all five of his team's losses now have come via 3-0 scorelines, despite the fact there have been times when their defence has clicked and the likes of Voronkova and Parubets have looked in good enough form to warrant closer - or even better - results.

China moved their record on to 6-5 and they will now meet the red-hot USA (10-1) on Thursday night while the Russians (6-5) might be starting to feel the heat with the VNL finals looming but get no respite in Jiangmen with Brazil (9-2) to face on the final night's play.

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