By A Staff Reporter,Kathmandu, May 25: Host Nepal suffered a 1-3 defeat against India to finish Pool A runners-up and reach the semifinals of the CAVA Women’s Challenge Cup Volleyball on Wednesday.
The victory gave India nine points to win Pool A while defending champions Nepal trailed in second place with six points. Kyrgyzstan and Bangladesh remained in third and fourth place respectively and were eliminated from the competition.
India will meet Pool B runners-up Uzbekistan in the knockout round. Nepal will face Pool B winner Kazakhstan in the semifinals. The semifinals will be played on Friday.
India narrowly edged past Nepal in a dramatic four-setter in the last match of Group A at the NSC Covered Hall in Kathmandu.
India comfortably won the first set by 25-12.
The title holders, however, turned things around and fought back bravely to make the remaining three sets a see-saw battle between the two neighbouring countries.
Nepal turned the heat on India in the second set before going down in a closely-contested battle 24-26.
Nepal went on to fight back strongly in the third set, which they rallied past India 25-20.
The fourth set was intense as both sides tried their best to win the set, which saw leads change hands momentarily. However, India fared better in the end, holding off the gritty hosts with their attacks to capture the close set 25-21 and the match.
This is the first loss of Nepal in the Challenge Cup. Nepal has remained unbeaten to win the title in the previous two editions.
Captain Aruna Shahi said Nepal learned a lot of lessons from their last group match. “We could not execute our plan. We were poor with our defence today. Playing against India always put pressure on us. Though, we played freely being already in the semifinal.”
“Moreover, I could not perform well today. Our key player Saraswoti Chaudhary was not fit. We also missed Pratibha Mali due to injury,” tearful Shahi said.
Belgium coach Jan D Brandt said Nepal displayed a spirited performance. “Players were nervous in the first set playing against the strong opponent. Nepal battled back in the remaining set. The match was fast. India did well in the blocking department.”
Earlier, Kazakhstan struggled past Uzbekistan 3-1 and advanced into the last four, winning Pool B. Central Asian nation Kazakhstan bounced back from a first-set loss to outplay its neighbour comfortably in the remaining three sets.
Uzbekistan clinched the first set 26-24 in a tight battle. Learning from their mistakes in the first set, the Kazakhs turned the tables by winning the second set 25-16 and the third set 25-11. The Kazakhs overcame the resistance from Uzbekistan to take the fourth set by 25-18.
With three wins, Kazakhstan topped Pool B with nine points. Uzbekistan followed in second place with six points from two wins and one loss. Sri Lanka and the Maldives crashed out of the tournament.
Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives will play in the classification round for 5th-8th places on May 25.