Fukuoka, Japan, November 14, 2009 – The Dominican Republic came from a set down to overcome hosts Japan 24-26, 25-22, 25-16, 25-18 on the fourth day of the FIVB Women’s World Grand Champions Cup 2009 at Marine Messe in Fukuoka. The win represented the Dominican Republic's first victory on Japanese soil and only the second victory over Japan in history.
Milagros Cabral de la Cruz led her team with 27 points, including five blocks, while Prisilla Rivera chipped in with a healthy 20 points. Maiko Sakashita led Japan with 20 points.
Both teams have a 2-2 record in the Champions Cup, but Japan remains in third position due to a superior points ratio.
The early stages suggested this could be a see-saw game. Japan led by two points at 5-3, but the Dominican Republic fought back to lead 8-6 at the first technical timeout. They held their lead to 13-12, but a long serve by Rivera put Japan level and Mai Yamaguchi and Erika Araki combined superbly to put the block on Cabral de la Cruz and take the lead. The Dominicans fought back to 15-15, but Japan led at the second TTO and pulled away thanks to great attacking by Sakashita. Rivera used a spike and a clever tipover to close the gap to one point but a netted serve by Jeoselyna Rodriguez extended that to two again. But the scores were level again at 22, 23 and 24 when the Dominicans hit the net post. Sakashita then blocked Lisvel Elisa Eve to hand the first set to Japan.
Yamaguchi was again at the center of the action at the start of the second set with a spike, a tipover and a sensational recovery from near the Dominican bench as Japan raced out to a 5-1 lead. But the Dominicans took the next five points – and the lead. Sakashita came up with a great block on 194-cm Annerys Vargas and Kaori Inoue hit a terrific spike to give Japan a one-point lead at the first TTO. Eve came up big with a block on Saori Kimura and a spike, while a Rivera serve went in after being left by the Japanese team. Suddenly, the Dominicans were three points up again. But the see-saw continued. Japan took five straight points to reverse the scores and lead 15-13, but the Dominicans fought back to lead 20-18 after two errors by Saori. Japan then struggled to catch up and a spike by Cabral brought up setpoint. She then repeated the trick to even the set count at 1-1.
Things were looking tight at the start of the third set when the Dominicans let two serves by Sakashita go – both fell in and a netted serve by Rivera allowed Japan to open up a three-point gap at the first TTO. As was the way with this match, it didn't last long. Eve got a good block on Araki and Cabral absolutely brutalized the ball with two spikes to put the Dominican Republic ahead. Japan drew level at 14 and 15, but another telling hit from Cabral gave the edge to the Dominicans at the second TTO. It got no better for the Japanese; in fact, it got a lot worse as they only won one more point. The Dominicans pulled off four straight blocks and a service ace to finish off the set and go 2-1 up.
With the score tied at 4-4 in the fourth set Japan got sloppy and allowed two serves to slip through – in addition to spikes by Rivera and Mambru. So Japan were four points down at an early stage and struggling to come up with answers to the power and blocking of the Dominicans. Kimura came up with a pair of tipovers, but the Dominicans continued to overpower Japan and they ended the second period with a service ace by Mambru to go 16-8 up. From then on, it was only a question of how many they would win by. The Dominicans continued to block Japan and score on their power strikes. Mambru brought up matchpoint with a spike and fittingly captain Cabral finished off the match with another hit that the Japanese just could not stop.