Russia and Japan had only pride to play for in Tokyo with both teams having already sealed the top two spots in Pool E.
Tokyo, Japan, November 10, 2010 – Russia continued their unbeaten run at the FIVB Women's World Championship Japan 2010 on Wednesday with a 3-1 (25-21, 25-14, 23-25, 25-13) win over Japan in the second round at Yoyogi Gymnasium in Tokyo.
Both teams had already qualified for the semifinals but with their victory, Russia ensured they finished Pool E with a 7-0 win-loss record while Japan were 5-2. The sides' top scorers in the tournament, Russia’s Ekaterina Gamova and Saori Kimura of Japan, led the way again with 26 and 25 points respectively.
FIVB Women's World Championship Japan 2010 official page
Russia eased into the lead with Nataliya Goncharova and Gamova landing a couple of good spikes each. Vladimir Kuzyutkin's team were also defending well against the speedy Japanese attack, although the hosts soon caught up with their much taller Russian counterparts, with Yukiko Ebata landing a couple of nice hits and Ai Yamamoto and Kimura delivering service aces. With a pair of strong spikes, Kimura put Japan ahead at 11-10 and it was a battle all the way to 19-19 when spikes by Gamova and Liubov Shashkova allowed Russia to open up a two-point gap. At 23-21, Maria Borodakova blocked Yukiko Ebata to bring up set-point and Shashkova put Japan 1-0 up with a service ace.
Russia's big guns – the 202cm Gamova and Yulia Merkulova, and 194cm Goncharova – started firing in rockets at the start of the second set and Japan did well to limit the damage to 8-4 by the First Technical Timeout (FTT). The introduction of Saori Sakoda put some life into Japan's attack and she landed three fierce spikes. After she was blocked by Merkulova to put Russia 10-5 up, however, coach Masayoshi Manabe called a timeout to try and regroup.
It was an uphill struggle for the home side. Kimura came up with a great spike and a super block on Merkulova, while Yoshie Takeshita had a service ace, but Gamova, Goncharova and Shashkova were constant thorns in the side of Japan. After getting to within three points at 12-9, Japan could only win five of the next 18 points. Goncharova came up with four straight spikes to move Russia from 18-11 to 22-11. Japan's only response was a great hit by Kimura – but that came after a net error by the Japanese had handed set-point to Russia. A Shashkova spike duly put Russia 2-0 ahead.
The third set started off with a fabulous spike by Sakoda, a miss by Gamova and a sparkling first-time strike at the net by Kaori Inoue, giving Japan a 3-0 lead. And it was no fluke. Kimura followed up with a spike and a soft, well-placed shot, while Inoue repeated her earlier shot at the net three more times, all behind the serving of Kimura, who also delivered a service ace. Suddenly, Japan were 10-3 up and Russia coach Vladimir Kuzyutkin hauled his players off court. But the hosts were not finished there. Some breathtaking defence, a typically sublime set by Takeshita and a lightning spike by Saori put Japan 11-5 ahead. The home fans were happy and when 159cm Takeshita made an incredible block on the hard-hitting, 192cm Shashkova, they went crazy.
Japan led 16-9 at the Second Technical Timeout (STT) but did not help their cause with three straight netted serves and a reception error by Kimura. After Russia had clawed their way back to a one-point deficit at 22-21, Manabe called his players off court. They responded with two excellent spikes from Kimura and Japan had three setpoints. Borodakova and Goncharova recovered two of them, but Kimura came up with another strong spike to pull Japan back into the match at 2-1.
Russia were back in the groove at the start of the fourth set and, after successive hits by Goncharova put them 6-2 ahead, Manabe took his players off for a talk. It proved in vain as a fine block by Borodakova on Kimura was followed by four poor Japanese plays: successive service reception errors by Kimura, a netted spike by Mai Yamaguchi and a failed service return. With Goncharova producing a spike and Japan two more errors, Russia now held an 11-point lead at 14-3. Great blocks by Yamamoto and Megumi Kurihara on Shashkova and Goncharova gave the Japanese fans some hope, but the Russian mountain was too high to climb. Goncharova brought up match point with another hefty blow and Tatiana Kosheleva forced a spike through the Japanese block to finish off the contest.