India started their campaign in the Asian Men’s U-23 Volleyball Championship on a strong note by registering back-to-back wins over China and New Zealand on Sunday.
While New Zealand was defeated 3-0 with relative ease, China put up a strong fight as the hard-fought contest lasted five sets.
Against China, India captain Amit Gulia led the way with a total of 22 points in the game, but it was Kerala’s Shon John who stole the show with 23 points.
The first set didn’t go India’s way and despite giving China a hard run, Amit Gulia’s boys went down 22-25. But India came back strongly in the second set and kept China under check, largely due to John and Gulia. They eventually nicked a close-set, which lasted 32 minutes, 29-27.
India started strongly in the third set and continued their good run to clinch it 25-17.
The fourth set proved to be as closely contested as the second set and it was difficult to separate the two teams. India had a match point but couldn’t prevent China from taking the set to ensure the match went into the decider.
Till the halfway mark of the final set, both the teams didn’t give an inch to each other and kept coming back to take the lead. However, post the halfway mark, the momentum quickly shifted India’s way and with China failing to arrest the slide, India clinched the final set 15-11 to register an impressive win.
Zheng Guangyuan stood out for China, finishing the match with the highest number of points — 24.
The encounter against New Zealand ended in three sets as the Kiwis never seemed to threaten the Indian boys and were brushed aside 25-18, 25-14, 25-12.
India will play their final Group D fixture against Thailand on Monday. The top two teams from the group will progress to the next round.