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Japan holds off Dominican Republic to win five-set thriller

 
Nagoya, Japan, October 7, 2018 - Sarina Koga scored a match-high 23 points as Japan held off the Dominican Republic 3-2 (25-17, 28-26, 22-25, 25-27, 15-11) in a five-set thriller in the second round of the FIVB Women's World Championship on Sunday night.

Ai Kurogo added 20 and Mai Okumura had 11 for the winners.

Bethania De La Cruz was the top scorer in the loss for the Dominicans with 21 points.

Japan entered the match with a 4-1 record, while the Dominican Republic was 3-2.

Japan looked headed for a 3-0 victory before the momentum switched late in the second set.

The Dominican block and attack troubled Japan in the middle three sets. Japan finally regained their footing in the final set with good serves and blocks.

Japan dominated the first set before the Dominicans came back to nearly take the second set. Japan passed and served well early on, before the Dominican attack began scoring frequently.

Koga made a nice block as Japan evened the first set at 7-7. Japan used good teamwork to move ahead 12-8 on a spike by Ai Kurogi. Brayelin Martinez delivered a spike from the wing to make it 15-9 as the Dominicans tried to prevent Japan from breaking the set wide open. Japan kept building on the lead with good passing and defense and claimed the set 25-17.

The second set was a close one. A Martinez spike put the Dominicans ahead 5-3 in as they tried to counter Japan's speed with power. The Dominican Republic led 8-6 at the first TTO. Risa Shinnabe fired a service ace as Japan equalized at 9-9. Koga came with a huge block on Isabel Pena to make it 13-13. Strong blocks and attacks helped Japan move ahead 18-16. The Dominicans equalized 19-19 on a tip over the high block by De La Cruz. Miyu Nagaoka entered the match for the first time and immediately delivered a spike to level the score at 21-21. Pena leaped high to put the Dominican Republic back in front at 23-22. Koga serrved into the net to give the Dominicans set point at 24-23. Shinnable crushed a spike on the wing for 24-24. Koga found a hole in the defense with a spike and Japan had set point at 25-24. Kurogo's spike made it 27-26 and Japan took the set 28-26.

Japan jumped ahead 7-4 in the third set, before the Dominican Republic came back to make it 11-11. Japan went back ahead but the Dominicans equalized again at 15-15. A block by Elisa Eve gave the Dominican Republic a 16-15 edge at the second TTO. The Dominicans opened up a three-point lead at 19-16 and Japan called a timeout. A Pena spike made it 22-19 and the Dominicans closed out the set 25-22 on a spike by De La Cruz.

The fourth set was tight with the Dominican Republic taking an 8-7 lead into the first TTO after a service ace by Jineiry Martinez. A service ace by made it 13-11 for the Dominicans, who scored repeatedly on quick strikes. It was 16-13 for the Dominican Republic at the second TTO. After falling behind 18-14, Japan rallied to tie it 19-19 on a service ace by Nagaoka. The match moved along and was knotted at 23-23 when Pena lofted a soft tap over the Japan block for 24-23. Koga smashed a spike to give Japan match point at 25-24 and the Dominicans called a timeout. Kurogo's serve went into the net and it was 25-25. A Nagaoka spike was blocked and the Dominican Republic had set point at 26-25 and they wrapped it up 27-25.

Japan quickly took a 3-0 lead in the final set. Mai Okumura had a service ace to make it 5-2. Yuki Ishii flew infor a spike and Japan was up 7-4. A misplayed reception pulled the Dominican Republic within a point at 9-8. Koga hammered a spike and Japan led 13-9 and looked to close it out. Japan clinched the set and match 15-11.


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