Toyama, Japan, June 27, 2009 – Cuba
edged Japan 25-22, 25-19, 27-25 in the first of a two-match World
League series at Toyama City Gymnasium on Saturday.
Both sides were guilty of errors
throughout the match, but it was Japan that paid the bigger price,
making 23 errors to Cuba's 14.
While Japan coach Tatsuya Ueta could be
pleased with the offensive power of Tatsuya Fukuzawa, he will need
his players to find more resilience in the second game against a Cuba
team with plenty of height and power.
Ueta also pointed out that Fukuzawa and
Yuta Yoneyama made crucial errors on receiving and serving,
respectively, but said the whole team needs to increase their mental
strength. Fukuzawa was Japan's top scorer with 16 points.
Cuba were led by Yoandi Leal (13
points) but, errors notwithstanding, put on a good all-round
performance against Japan.
Japan started out the match strongly
and took an 8-6 lead at the first technical timeout. Japan coach
Tatsuya Ueta would have been pleased with two great blocks by his
players – the first by Yoshihiko Matsumoto on Leal, the second by
Kota Yamamura on Rolando Cepeda. Cuba also weren't helped by a couple
of errors. Kunihiro Shimizu started to come into the game after the
first dozen points and he scored a succession of big winners to help
Japan stay ahead of Cuba. Japan stretched their lead to three points
at 15-12 thanks to excellent Japanese defense and a great spike by
Fukuzawa. But Cuba closed the gap thanks to some inspirational play
by captain Roberlandy Simon, including a great block on Shimizu and
two spikes. Cuba went ahead on a spike by Osmani Camejo, but two
brilliant thumps by Fukuzawa brought Japan level at 20-20. Japan
edged in front 21-20 when Yusuke Matsuta blocked Cepeda, but a spike
by Camejo, a superb block by 15-year-old Wilfredo Leon on Shimizu and
a wide attempt by Yoneyama put Cuba back in the driving seat. Leon
spiked the Cubans to setpoint and Simon secured first blood with a
block on Shimizu as Cuba came out on top 25-22.
Japan also started the second set
strongly, but once again the Cubans were guilty of errors, allowing
Japan to take a two-point lead. But a receiving error by Fukuzawa and
a wide serve by Matsumoto allowed Cuba to draw level and more poor
play by Japan saw Cuba edge into an 8-7 lead at the first TTO.
Despite some cracking spikes by Fukuzawa, Cuba maintained their
pressure, although Japan did briefly tie the scores at 12-12. Cuba
came on strong again, with Leal landing some good blows, but Japan
tracked them to 20-18 when Cuba ran away with the set thanks to some
sloppy Japan play. Fukuzawa netted a spike, Takeshi Kitajima
completely mis-hit a good spiking opportunity and poor Japanese
organization allowed Camejo to bring up setpoint. Leal then finished
off the set with Cuba running out 25-19 winners.
Fukuzawa started off the third set in
fine spiking form, but Japan weren't helped by a wide spike from
Shimizu and a long serve from the same player. Shimizu struggled with
his serve all night, but redeemed himself on this occasion with a
spike at 4-4 that put Japan ahead, before Cepeda and Leon turned the
tables again. Shimizu then made a great block on Leon, who followed
up by putting a spike long and handing Japan an 8-6 lead at the first
TTO. But a block on Shimizu and a dreadful reception by Yoneyama
allowed the Cubans to draw level again. A netted serve by Cepeda
brought the scores level at 14, but then Cuba failed to get organized
again, allowing Yamamura an easy tipover followed and then a spike
that gave Japan a 16-14 advantage. Spikes by Yoneyama helped put
Japan three points up at 19-16, but then he put a service wide and
Leon blocked Shimizu. A setting error allowed Cuba to draw level at
20-20, but great work by Fukuzawa put Japan in control. Yamamura
brought up setpoint but Camejo responded with a spike. A block by
Leon on Shimizu then gave Cuba the advantage, but Fukuzawa saved
that. In the end, it was settled by two errors. Yoneyama netted a
serve and Fukuzawa hit a spike that was so close to the line the
judge called it in, but it was ruled long and Cuba has the set 27-25,
and the match was all over.