KATHMANDU, Nov 28: Nepal women’s volleyball team overcame Bangladesh in straight sets on Wednesday to begin its South Asian Games on a triumphant note while the men’s team fell short in a 3-2 set loss against Bangladesh.
In women’s match at the National Sports Council’s covered hall, Saraswati Chaudhary, Pratibha Mali, Reshma Bhandari and Heera KC all shone as Nepal beat the Bangladeshi side 25-9, 25-9 and 25-11 to secure three points and gain early advantage in Group A.
Fresh from winning the historic title at the AVC Central Zone Senior Women’s Championship in Bangladesh earlier this month, Nepal looked confident and dominated the game throughout the play.
Coach Jagadish Bhatta was optimistic about their chances of grabbing the gold after the victory against Bangladesh.
“On back of our recent success, we are in pressure to win the gold in the SAG. There are expectations from fans and stakeholders. But, we are channeling that as our motivation,” said Bhatta.
“We outplayed Bangladesh today. They were comparatively weaker than us which we utilized to our maximum effect. We also tried fringe players in the last set,” he added.
Usha Bhandari made her debut in the national team at 16 replacing Mali in the third set.
“If our players continue the same form, we can win the gold medal,” he added.
Skipper Aruna Shahi said her team played their best to produce a comfortable win against Bangladesh.
“We did not undermine the opposition. We played to our strengths which helped us get a convincing win,” said Shahi.“We look forward to continue the same form against India as well.”
In Group B, the Maldives got a walkover and was awarded three points after Pakistan failed to make an appearance for the game.
Nepal will face India in the second group match on Thursday while Sri Lanka will meet Pakistan later the same day.
The top two teams will advance into the semifinals on Saturday.
But it was a unlucky day for Nepali men as they faced a 25-21, 23-25, 25-19,24-26,12-15 defeat at the hands of Bangladeshi men.
Despite being competitive throughout the game, and even taking a lead at one point, Nepal could not handle the pressure and threw the 2-1 lead to eventually lose 3-2.
The teams were tied at 2-2 before Bangladesh won the last set to grab its first three points.
Nepal’s coach Leise de Jong blamed his team’s weak receive for the loss. The result leaves Nepal with a mountain to climb as it will face India in a must-win encounter on Friday.
Considering, Bangladesh and India will play against each other on Thursday, Nepal can hope India loses that game so that it could advance with a win the next day.
Pakistan will vie against the Maldives on Thursday in the first match of Group B.
Six teams except Bhutan have participated in volleyball.
The other events of the Games will kick off after the official inauguration on December 1.