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Japan down Korea to claim top four spot

Japan's Yukiko Ebata leaps high on her way to 21 points as the hosts wrapped up a crucial win against Korea

Tokyo, Japan, November 9, 2010 – Hosts Japan confirmed their place in the top four semifinals of the FIVB Women's World Championship Japan 2010 with a solid 3-0 (25-22, 25-17, 25-19) win over Korea at Yoyogi Gymnasium in Tokyo on Tuesday.

Japan's second-round record stands at 5-1 putting them out of reach of Turkey, Serbia and the Koreans who have a 3-3 win-loss record.

FIVB Women's World Championship Japan 2010 official page

Japan's Yukiko Ebata started off the match in the form she displayed against Turkey on Sunday when she was the top scorer with 24 points. Mai Yamaguchi was also in prime form for the hosts while Yeon-Koung Kim started to find her range for Korea and both teams were defending with characteristic passion and ability.

Japan held a one-point lead at the First Technical Timeout (FTT) and right after that, their 159cm setter Yoshie Takeshita came up with a super block on 183cm Dae-Young Jung to put the home team two points clear. But Korea stayed close and blocks by Song-Yi Han and Youn-Joo Hwang frustrated the Japanese attackers. However, Takeshita set up a point for Saori Kimura with a sensational dig, while spikes by Saori and Ebata gave Japan a three-point lead at 17-14, prompting Korea coach Sam-Ryong Park to call a timeout.

With two Japan errors and two spikes from Kim, Korea restored parity at 18-all and after Kim put Korea 21-20 up, a huge rally ended with a spike from Han that left Masayoshi Manabe's hosts under pressure. Saori came up with a spike, however, and Kaori Inoue then made a fantastic block on Han to level the scores at 22-all and put Japan back on the path to claiming the set. Saori put them ahead, then Kim sent a spike long and, after great recovery work by libero Yuko Sano, Saori clinched the first set for Japan with a solid hit.

After going 2-1 up in the second set, Korea dropped four straight points, leading Park to call his players off for a chat. It was to no avail as Japan held a four-point lead at the FTT after Jung sent her serve into the net. Korea's form dipped further and four errors in the second phase allowed Japan to extend their lead. Ebata came up with a thunderbolt down the middle and Inoue made a big block on Han to make the score 14-8. The Koreans then failed to deal with two Saori serves and Japan led 16-8 at the Second Technical Timeout (STT).

They maintained their superiority as an Inoue spike and a huge block on Han was followed by a Saori spike that made it 23-14. Ebata brought up set-point after a brilliant set by Takeshita, who was running off the court, and after Kim had landed two big spikes, Ebata fired down a rocket to put Japan 2-0 up.

Ebata started off the third set as she finished the second – with a big blast. She added two more to give Japan a 5-2 lead, at which point Park called a timeout. Kim and Hwang landed two heavy hits, but another good hit by Ebata and a big thump by Saori saw Japan into an 8-5 lead at the FTT. A terrific block on Kim by Ai Yamamoto gave Japan a 14-8 lead, but Kim responded with a spike and two perfectly placed shots to reduce the gap to three points and force Japan coach Manabe to call a timeout.

Ebata stepped up to the plate again and thundered down two missiles and a service ace to get Japan back on track. Korea used their own big guns – the 192cm Kim and 190cm Hyo-Jin Yang – to try and get back into the game, but Ebata was on top form for the Japanese, who were also defending well. A truly unbelievable dig by Takeshita set up match point, which Yamamoto then converted with a strong spike.

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