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Japan upset USA to win bronze

11/14/2010

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Japan celebrate their first World Championship medal since 1978

Tokyo, Japan, November 14, 2010 - Japan upset second-ranked USA in a thrilling five-set match (18-25, 25-23, 21-25, 25-19, 15-8) to win the bronze medal in front of a full house of 12,000 fans at the FIVB Women's World Championship Japan 2010 at Yoyogi National Stadium in Tokyo, Japan on Sunday.

The hosts, ranked 5th in the world, played extraordinary Volleyball to win their first FIVB Women's World Championship medal since claiming silver at the 1978 edition in Russia, and impressed many considering they were coming off a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Brazil on Saturday. It was Japan's first World Championship bronze medal having three gold and three silver already to their name. For USA it was the first time they finish fourth at the FIVB World Championships and the 2010 World Grand Prix champions will no doubt be disappointed they couldn't add to their two silver and bronze medals.

Kimura Saori and Destinee Hooker both top scored for Japan and USA respectively with 28 points as Japan recorded their 20th win in 43 matches against USA.

With the capacity crowd of 12,000 just taking their seats Logan Tom spiked for USA, and Kaori Inoue scored for Japan. Yuko Sano saved a Destinee Hooker spike, which Japan converted into a 2-1 lead. Tom netted a spike and Hooker elevated to thump a spike straight down the tram lines for a 4-3 US lead. Yukiko Ebata missed a spike wide from the left flank, and then redeemed herself with a missile down the middle for 6-4, before Inoue's serve caught the line. The US probed Japan's coverage early, looking for signs of fatigue after Japan's marathon loss to Brazil. But Saori and Yoshie Takeshita showed their determination, as they both slid into their bench to save a rally, which Hooker finished for the US. The US led 8-6 at the first technical time-out, as a packed crowd of 12,000 clapped golden “stick balloons" in rhythm to a theme song by Japanese pop group Exile. Jordan Larson smoked a service ace, while Ebata continued her fantastic play with a thundering hit from the left wing. Hooker soared high through the middle of the court to smack a winner to put the US up 10-8. With US blockers roiling up at the net to block Ebata, she delicately tipped the ball cross-court for a winner. Hooker answered with another swooping swat to go 12-10 and Larson scored twice to go 14-11 ahead. Foluke Akinradewo's serving targeted Saori to keep her out of Japan's initial attack and the US surged to 18-11. Coach Masayoshi Manabe's insert of captain Erika Araki paid off as she scored at the net. Hooker netted a serve to give Japan more hope at 19-14, but her clever tip to the right side caught Japan out of position, and even the speedy Sano couldn't dig it out. The US continued to attack through the skywalking Hooker and Japan's shorter blockers were no match as the US took command at 23-16. With ace spiker Saori notching only two points in the set Japan looked for spark from substitutes Hitomi Nakamichi and Megumi Kurihara but Hooker soared above the other players on the court to give USA the set 25-18.

In the second set Japan looked downcast while Larson smiled as the US raced ahead 4-0. A few US errors let Japan back in the set at 4-3. Hooker showed her accuracy as well as leaping ability as she found a tiny spot along the sideline and then scored from the other wing. The US won a long rally to go up 7-4 before Japan rallied to 8-6 behind Ebata. Blocker Mai Yamaguchi went into an attacking position and the tactic worked as her spike propelled Japan within one at 8-7. Saori, perhaps fatigued from her nearly three-hour effort the night before, netted a backcourt spike that she usually makes and Japan fell dangerously behind 11-7. Hooker's missile sent substitute Mizuho Ishida rolling on the court at 12-7 but she got up to hit a winner in hope of redeeming herself for missed serves against Brazil. Inoue hit two winners from the right to make it 12-11 and force a USA time-out. On the restart, Lindsey Berg missed a serve, and Takeshita's serve handcuffed the US to square the set at 13. Seizing the momentum, Saori tipped Japan into the lead at 14-13, and hit another accurate spike to go up 16-14. A determined Ishida hit another winner from the left to go 18-15 as the crowd chanted her name. The US adjusted quickly and blocked both Ishida on the left and Yamaguchi on the right. At 20-20 Saori out-muscled the brawnier US blockers at the net to put Japan back in front while US captain Jennifer Tamas answered back. With the US effectively reading Saori's feathery spikes, she adjusted and hammered home two awesome winners to put Japan up 23-21. Sano made a scintillating dig near the net and Yamaguchi tapped it down to give Japan set point at 24-22. USA captain Jennifer Tamas saved it with a tip but Ishida proved her coach right by hitting a winner to give Japan the set 25-23.

After a 10-minute break, Japan seemed more energized to start the third set, and went up 4-1 as Larson mistimed a tip, and Inoue blocked Hooker. Larson's spike made it 4-3, and the US regained the lead as Hooker slammed a ball off Takeshita. Tom gambled and netted a serve to give Japan back the momentum and Hooker missed a tip wide right. Ishida continued her surprising play with a spike down the middle as Japan went ahead 8-6. The US won a hard-fought rally to scrape to 8-7 and Hooker added to America's litany of unforced errors with a long serve. Hooker made up for it with a lightning bolt down the middle to equalize at 10. Hooker couldn't chase down a deflected Saori spike, and Yamamoto's service ace made it 12-11 Japan. Hooker climbed a ladder to throw a spike downward and the US adjusted and blocked Ishida's attack. Saori's spike evened the set at 14 before the blocking wall of Tamas and Larson rejected a Japan attack to give the US a fresh lead 15-14. Ishida moved to the left and found a gap for a winner, while Larson's spike put the US back on top 16-15. Tom's tip found a gaping hole in the belly of Japan's coverage forcing Manabe to call time-out trailing 19-16. Ishida responded with a spike from a setter's position and Tom over-hit her spike to allow Japan within one. But Ishida, in a replay of her misses Saturday, again served long to deflate Japan's rally and give the US 20-18, which they promptly stretched to 21-18. After a Japan time-out, substitutes couldn't help Japan overcome an American onslaught. Hitomi Nakamichi couldn't dig out a ball that Sano would normally get and Hooker compounded her problems by launching a howitzer down the middle for a 23-18 US advantage. Yamamoto kept Japan alive with a spike from the right wing. Yet another substitute, Ino Akiko, couldn't handle Hooker's deep spike to give the US set points from 24-20. Hooker hit long, but then crushed a spike to clinch the set 25-21.

In the fourth set, Japan showed it would not fold without a fight. Saori's tip put Japan up 2-0 and Araki's ace made it 6-2 re-energizing a crowd chanting “Nippon, Nippon." After the TTO, Ishida kept her serve in play this time, taking Japan up 9-5. Japan's coverage seemed to lack its earlier oomph, and the US found room to tip against a team that rarely lets a ball drop untouched. But Saori found space for a tip of her own to put Japan up 11-7. Tamas answered for the US while Araki continued her spirited play with a score from the centre. Tom netted yet another serve, putting a frown of frustration on the face of US coach Hugh McCutcheon, as Japan forged ahead 14-9. With Takeshita spreading Japan's attack around the court, Yamaguchi and Ishida hit winners to extend the cushion to 16-10. After a time-out, Japan was clearly hoping not to fold in the fourth set as they did against Brazil. After fielding Hooker's serve, Japan capped a rally by feeding Saori for a swat off US hands to go up 17-11. Larson flubbed an easy reception and Ishida scored for 18-11. Looking for the killer instinct they lacked in other matches, Takeshita found Yamamoto for a winner, Sano made an inspiring dig and Saori tipped it off American hands to go up 20-12. The US hit back with two winners to 20-14 but Yamamato again relished her attacking role with a clear winner from the right wing. With Japanese defenders puzzling them, Hooker launched a spike long, and Larson missed wide, to give Japan 23-14. Saori misplayed a bump and couldn't redeem with a spike, and this time Tom kept an American spike in play to scrap back to 23-17. Araki urged calm from her team as Berg served two in a row to make it 23-19, forcing Manabe to call time, after five straight American points. Saori's spike made it set point 24-19, and the US misplayed a ball to give Japan a convincing 25-19 set.

In the deciding fifth set, the crowd erupted after Saori capped a long rally, before Hooker put the US in front 2-1. Hooker decided not to play a Saori serve which nicked the line, and Ebata's tip made it 5-3 Japan, igniting a deafening roar in the crowd. With Japan shifting coverage, Hooker missed long again, to give Japan a 7-4 lead. Tom's hit was also perhaps going long but Araki tried to play it and missed to make it 7-5. Ishida, playing a key role off the bench, leapt high for a winner to put Japan up 8-5 at the change. After changing sides. Yamamoto again found space from her right wing attack, which has confounded the US defense throughout the match. Saori hammered away three times to finally crack the US wall and lift Japan up 10-5. Determined to win at home and become the toast of Japan, Japan simply outhustled the US in the end, with Saori seemingly everywhere on the attack, as Japan finally clinched the set to claim the bronze medal.

(FIVB)