Opposite spiker Tijana Boskovic steadied Serbian nerves and drove them on to 3-1 (25-18, 25-23, 19-25, 25-19) victory over a spirited Thailand as Week 2 of the 2018 FIVB Women’s Volleyball Nations League took the action to the city of Macau.
The reach and range of the 21-year-old Boskovic (30 points) eventually proved insurmountable at the net and her efforts, combined with and hot-and-cold effort from wing spiker Brankica Mihajlovic (12 points) saw the 2016 Rio Olympic silver medalists improve their VNL record to 3-1, as the Thais fell to 1-3.
While Boskovic was sometimes guilty of wild serves – most notably to hand the Thai’s the third set – she seemed to rally her teammates to the cause the longer the match went on, challenging calls and urging them on.
She was rested in the fourth set by coach Zoran Terzic and reacted with a look that could have frozen ice.
Thai coach Danai Sriwacharamaytakul’s game plan was to go deep, and dodge the Serb’s two most imposing players, and it worked best in that second and third sets when the likes of Thai top-scorer Onuma Sittirak (15 points) gave as good as she got against her team’s more fancied opponents.
But the Serbs proved just why they are one of the strongest teams in the women’s game come the fourth stanza. Captain Milena Rasic (13 points) was particularly strong when the pressure was on and will be looking to build on Tuesday’s success when the Serbs next turn out, against Poland on Wednesday.
The Macau crowd had warmed to the Thais and their underdog status, after the two-time Asian champions had lost to the Netherlands (3-0) and Russia (3-1) in the VNL’s first round.
Inventive attacks had their opponents double-guessing in the middle two sets. But a yellow card for dissent in the fourth set for Terzic seemed to rally the Europeans, and experienced heads prevailed for the Serbs, particularly Bozkovic who by that stage had made her presence felt across the court.