Japan, July 5, 2009 – Japan dug deep on Sunday to pick up their
second win of the World League, edging Bulgaria 26-24, 13-25, 21-25,
25-23, 15-13 at Ariake Colosseum.
only previous win in the tournament came in the away leg in Bulgaria.
Bulgaria had won another close match on Saturday in four sets.
Tokyo, the return of Yu Koshikawa had an invigorating effect on the
Japan team and the home players were able to raise their game to the
delight of the 4,100 fans in the stadium. Koshikawa was Japan's top
scorer with 17 points, but one of the keys to Japan's game was a
vastly improved defense that saw them pick up 14 blocks against the
tall and powerful Bulgarians. Japan's setters also changed their
combinations, which confused the Bulgarians and diluted their attack.
were led by Matey Kaziyski with 18 points and had 17 blocks against
Japan, with Svetozar Ivanov collecting five of them.
opened up a 3-0 lead to start off the match and showed some good
defensive play early on, but Bulgaria kept the pressure on and drew
level at 6-6. A spike by Tatsuya Fukuzawa and a block by Daisuke
Usami gave Japan a one-point lead at the first technical timeout, but
the teams were level again at 10, after which Japan moved ahead.
Kunihiro Shimizu landed a decent spike, Vladimir Nikolov planted a
spike wide and Shimizu punished a receiving error by the Bulgarians.
The Japanese maintained their lead at the second TTO thanks to a
brilliant quick pass from Usami and spike by Takaaki Tomimatsu, a
superb improvised push shot from Yuta Yoneyama and a great block by
Yoneyama on Nikolov. Fukuzawa and Shimizu pounded down a massive
spike each and Japan were helped by a mis-hit from Kaziyski as they
extended their lead to four points at 21-17. A long spike by Shimizu
allowed Bulgaria to close the gap to two points, but a long serve by
Tsvetan Sokolov kept things in Japan's favor. Sokolov redeemed
himself with a crisp spike and Bulgaria drew level with blocks by
Svetozar Ivanov and Martin Penev on Fukuzawa and Shimizu,
respectively. Fukuzawa set up setpoint with a spike that was blocked
wide, but Penev was able to save that. Japan's second setpoint came
from a long serve by Ivanov and the set was capped with another error
when Penev spiked long.
came out fighting in the second set and pulled away from 3-3 thanks
to spikes by Krasimir Gaydarski and Sokolov, a wide spike by Fukuzawa
and a clever push shot by Kaziyski. That saw Bulgaria five points
ahead at the first TTO and it only got worse for Japan as they
dropped nine out of 10 points. Japan coach Tatsuya Ueta replaced
setter Usami with Yuta Abe, but Bulgaria were cruising as Japan
struggled to do anything right. Consecutive netted serves by Kazuki
Maeda and Tomimatsu saw Bulgaria nine points up at the second TTO and
left Japan with an impossible hill to climb. Metodi Ananiev then
landed some good spikes as Bulgaria stretched out to a 23-12 lead. A
great block by Ananiev on Shimizu brought up setpoint at 24-12 and
after a spike by Shimizu, a sloppy hit by Ivanov was enough to
secure the set for Bulgaria.
started off the third set with a power hit and Matsumoto had a great
block on Gaydarski, but then things turned Bulgaria's way again.
Shimizu was blocked twice and planted another spike wide, as did
Fukuzawa. With the Bulgarians 8-5 up, Koshikawa came in for Shimizu
and it didn't take him long to land a hefty spike. But Fukuzawa
followed up with yet another long serve and Japan trailed 11-7.
Matsumoto combined with Usami on two great short, quick hits and
Fukuzawa landed a spike, but a crushing blow by Sokolov saw Bulgaria
three points up at the second TTO. At 20-17, things turned in Japan's
favor. Yoneyama drove a spike through the Bulgarian defense and
Matsumoto made terrific blocks on Sokolov and Gaydarski, pulling the
teams level at 20 (great serving by Koshikawa also boosted Japan).
Yoneyama landed another defense-splitting spike, but a good effort by
Nikolov and an error by Koshikawa saw Bulgaria two points ahead at
23-21. Japan couldn't block Kaziyski as he brought about setpoint and
the Bulgarian then stopped a spike by Fukuzawa to clinch the third
regained their form as the fourth set got under way, but Bulgaria
kept things close. Shimizu started spiking well again, but Kaziyski
responded in kind and the teams were level at 7-7. A terrific block
by Shimizu put Japan up 8-7 at the first TTO and this turned into 9-7
when Kaziyski sent a shot long. Good spikes by Yoneyama and
Koshikawa, a big block by Kota Yamamura on Kaziyski and an unreturned
hit by Koshikawa stretched Japan's lead to 15-11, but Bulgaria fought
back through Nikolov, despite some great digging by libero Osamu
Tanabe. Another good hit by Koshikawa put Japan two points up at the
second TTO and he repeated the trick to make the scores 17-14.
Bulgaria closed the gap again with a spike by Ivanov and a block by
Nikolov on Shimizu, but Koshikawa and Shimizu kept Japan in front
with hard hits. Bulgaria kept the pressure on and drew within one
point at 20-19. Yoneyama then hit a piledriver through the Bulgarian
block and Usami superbly stopped a big hit by Kaziyski to put Japan
22-19 up. Japan earned three setpoints on the back of a gigantic
blast from Shimizu, but a spike by Nikolov and an unstoppable serve
by Kaziyski gave Bulgaria a ray of hope. But the big -serving
Bulgarian overstepped the mark with his next serve, sending it long
and the match into a fifth set.
didn't give Japan the start they wanted as his first serve hit the
net, but Shimizu hit a rocket to even things up. A wide spike by
Shimizu allowed Bulgaria to open up a two-point gap, but two great
shots by Koshikawa (aided on one of them by a mega-dig by Yoneyama)
saw Japan level at 5-5. Yamamura's spike from a short Usami pass
brought the scores to 6-6 and Koshikawa reaped the benefit of a super
serve by Usami to put Japan 7-6 up. Koshikawa hit another smash to
put Japan 8-7 ahead, but Bulgaria drew level on a disputed call when
it appeared Yamamura had blocked Penev. It then turned into
nail-biting stuff as Bulgaria kept going ahead and Japan kept drawing
level. Koshikawa finally gave Japan the lead at 13-12 but Ivanov
pulled that one back. Nikolov then sent a cross-court shot wide and
Japan had matchpoint. Nikolov tried a spike under pressure but his
shot hit the net and Japan had their second win of the tournament.