Tokyo, Japan, November 10, 2009 – Japan got off to an almost perfect start in the FIVB 2009 Women’s World Grand Champions Cup on Tuesday when they defeated South Korea 22-25, 27-25, 25-16, 25-10 at Tokyo's Metropolitan Gymnasium.
South Korea showed good resistance early on, but as the home team found their rhythm, they could do little to stop Japan.
Both teams started off slowly with serves going long and two receiving errors by the Koreans. Two good plays by Megumi Kurihara saw Japan move into a 7-5 lead and they were 8-5 up at the first technical timeout after a super dig by Saori Kimura that the Koreans couldn't return. Japan stretched their lead to 10-6 before the Koreans staged a small rally to pull back to 10-9. With both teams defending well, it remained tight and the Koreans pulled level at 15-15 after a couple of errors by the Japanese and some good offensive contributions from Kim Yeong Koun. Kim helped the Koreans edge ahead with a tremendous spike that drew the teams level and an unreturnable serve that made the score 17-16. From then on, it was high-pressure stuff with some quality Volleyball on display. With the scores even at 21, Yang Hyo Jin and Park Jeong Ah pulled off terrific back-to-back blocks to give the Koreans the advantage. Maiko Sakashita then put a serve long to give the Koreans set point and Kimura spiked long to hand the set to South Korea, 25-22.
A nice spell of serving by Yoshie Takeshita got Japan off to a clean start in the second set and the Koreans were forced to take a timeout with the score at 0-3. It seemed to wake them up and they fought back, but couldn't break Japan's lead. Kimura hit a tremendous spike after an equally impressive piece of defense en route to Japan widening their lead to 9-5. Japan probably could have pulled away, but poor serving allowed Korea to stay close. Japan captain Erika Araki contributed with a great block on Hwang Youn Joo as well as a big spike, while Takeshita picked up a point with a set that went over the net into space. But the Koreans were still in it and fighting hard. They managed to close to within one point at 18-17 on another big hit by Kim Yeon Koung, but Araki put the block on Hwang in brilliant style and Mai Yamaguchi came up with a big hit to maintain Japan's lead. However, it wasn't to last. The Koreans drew level at 21-21 when Kim blocked Kaori Inoue and then it was a nail-biting fight to the finish as the Koreans just couldn't get ahead. At 25-25, a fantastic long rally ended when Araki blocked Park Jeong Ah after some stunning defense by the Japanese. Yamaguchi then clinched the set with another cracking spike from the right.
Japan zoomed into a 9-2 lead to start off the third set, thanks to a couple of Korean errors and two terrific blocks by Araki. Kimura and Yamaguchi delivered some hefty spikes and Japan was 16-10 up at the second TTO. Despite some poor serving, Japan maintained its lead. Yamaguchi was in good form on attack and Inoue made two excellent blocks, one bringing up set point, which was converted by a Kimura spike.
Japan were quick out of the blocks in the fourth set thanks to three classy spikes by Kimura and three by Yamaguchi that put Japan 8-1 up at the first TTO. Japan's defense was also superb – Yuko Sano, Takeshita and Kurihara all pulling off great saves – as the home team's lead grew to 16-5 at the second TTO. From there, it was largely downhill for the Koreans as more errors crept into their game and their resistance started to crumble. A long service by Park brought set point and Mizuho Ishida came in to deliver the final blow, a confident thump down the right line.