PATONG: Japan defeated Thailand 2-0 in the final of the Phuket Thailand Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) Beach Volleyball Challenge 2005 in front of some 3,000 spectators at Patong Beach yesterday afternoon.

Southeast Asian Games gold medalists Jarunee Sannok and Kamoltip Kulna, comprising one of Thailand’s three teams, entered the finals after beating Bulgaria’s Yanchulova sisters 2-0 in the semi-finals. Petia Yanchulova and Lina Yanchulova, at #16 in the world, are the highest-ranking players who competed in Phuket.

Jarunee and Kamoltip went on to meet Japan’s Shinako Tanaka and Eiko Koizumi in the finals.

The first set was hotly contested, with teams drawing level point-for-point until 7-7, when Japan started pulling ahead and finally closed the set 21-16.

Tanaka and Koizumi dominated the second set from the start, forcing mistakes from Jarunee and Kamoltip. The local team, inspired by cheers from the crowd, rallied hard in the second set from a 7-2 deficit, but eventually lost the set 21-17.

Thailand achieved second place overall, and Bulgaria’s Petia and Tzvetelina Yanchulova beat Thailand’s Yupa Phokongploy and Usa Tenpaksee to gain third place.

The top three teams won trophies and US$7,200, US$5,800 and US$4,600 respectively.