Tokyo, Japan, November 30, 2007: The United States maintained their hopes of a World Cup podium finish by beating Japan 3-0 at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Friday night.
The Americans improved their win-loss record to 7-2 with an impressive 25-18, 27-25, 25-19 victory over Japan, who missed one set point in the second frame and slipped to 3-6.
USA, winners of the World Cup for the only time in 1985, will complete their 11-game schedule against Argentina on Saturday and Russia on Sunday.
Having suffered two defeats already, to Puerto Rico and Spain, the United States needed three wins from the final phase to stand a chance of qualifying for Beijing, especially after Bulgaria's victory over Russia.
They started the first set impressively, forcing Japan into a TO at 10-6 after some lusty blows out wide from Gardner and a solid block and attack from Priddy.
Japan replied through Yamamura at the net and a flying back court attack from Ishijima, while southpaw Shimizu started to crank out the points on the right.
Salmon, who had served an ace earlier, scored cleanly from the left as the United States went into the second TTO with a lead of seven, 16-9.
Japan continued to make mistakes on attack and serve, whereas Gardner rose and spiked with venom on the USA right for 18-11. Trailing 19-13, Japan sent in southpaw hero Yamamoto, but the USA block remained firm.
Another big cheer went up when Koshikawa came on to serve at 20-14, but Priddy finished the rally with a crashing back court attack after a Lee decoy at the net.
Gardner was in awesome form, spiking past Ishijima for 22-16, and then softening up the Japan centre for Millar to score into a big space. Spectacular defence could not save Japan, and Millar thumped home a rebound for 25-18. The Americans scored three points each on block and serve in the first set.
In the second set, Japanese setter Usami lifted his team with another block point -- his second of the night -- and an Ishijima spike on the left was too powerful for Gardner to control, 6-4 Japan.
Koshikawa continued the comeback with a crashing back court winner, and Gardner spiked long to hand Japan a three-point lead at the first TTO, 8-5.
On the restart, Millar struck at the net and the Americans turned defence into attack with a Gardner strike on the right through a two-man block.
When Matsumoto outfoxed Lee at the net to move Japan ahead 11-8, USA coach McCutcheon called a TO. Lee made amends for his error quickly, blocking Ishijima when they went head to head at the net.
An excellent reception from libero Lambourne to a Koshikawa fireball enabled Gardner to spike from the right for 13-12, and Millar blocked Yamamoto after a dizzying rally to bring the Americans level 13-13.
Priddy gave USA some momentum with a couple of quick points, the second owing a lot to Ball's excellent serve, and Japan called a TO having lost the lead at 18-17.
Despite some soild hits from Yamamoto and Koshikawa out wide, the Americans were able to maintain a two-point cushion through to 22-20. The Japanese came back again, though, and when Gardner fired wide across court from the right, the scores were level 22-22 and USA took a TO.
On the restart, USA quickly moved to two set points at 24-22 after a Salmon winner and thundering Priddy block on Ishijima. Japan called a TO, and saved them both with agile defence and two Yamamoto hits on the right.
Japan missed a set point of their own at 25-24, before USA took it 27-25 on their third set point when Priddy read Yamamoto's attempted tip-over. The Americans had scored eight block points in two sets, including three for Priddy.
Clean hits and tough blocks greeted Japan at the start of the third set as the Americans went for a straight-sets victory, and Japan called a TO down 6-3.
Salmon pounded away on the left, taking his team into the first TTO with a four-point lead, 8-4, and Priddy tipped one over into a big space for 9-4 with the Japan defence on the back foot. When Millar blocked Yamamura on the next point for 10-4, the gym fell ominously quiet.
Inevitably it was Ishijima who led the reply with his spiking and serving, and when Gardner fired wide to leave USA ahead 11-9, coach McCutcheon called a TO. On the restart, Gardner resumed normal service, and Lee blocked Matsumoto down the middle for 16-11 USA at the second TTO.
Japan went for their shots but committed too many errors on attack and needed their second TO of the third set with a seven-point gap to make up at 19-12.
Salmon blocked substitute Chiba to bring victory closer, and USA closed out the match 25-19 after a late rally from the home team had brought a USA TO at 23-18.