Tokorozawa, Japan, June 14, 2009 - Russia maintained
their edge over Japan on Sunday with a 25-22, 25-22, 22-25, 25-12 victory in
their second World League match at Tokorozawa Municipal Gymnasium.
But as on Saturday, the Russians had to fight for their
victory against a determined Japan team.
The first two sets could have gone either way, and with
Japan playing strong volleyball in the third set, an upset looked possible. But
the Russians, led by Yury Berezhko (14 points) came back with a vengeance in the
fourth set and overwhelmed the Japanese. Kunihiro Shimizu was Japan's top
scorer with 19 points.
Japan got off to a fast start, perhaps making up for
their poor third set on Saturday. Shimizu opened the match with a cracking
spike and Yoshihiko Matsumoto followed with a great block on Vladimir Melnik.
But Melnik landed a couple of big hits to help the Russians get back into the
game before Shimizu replied with two hefty blows. The mid-period of the set was
bogged down with errors, mainly poor serving from both sides, which kept the
scoring close. The Russians finally edged into the lead at 15-14 after two good
blocks on Tatsuya Fukuzawa, but two more Russian errors put Japan ahead 17-16.
At 17-17, Shimizu smacked a piledriver through the Russian defense and Yuta
Yoneyama executed a brilliant tipover after a great block on Alexander Volkov.
As the set neared its end, the intensity increased and the quality improved.
Fukuzawa came up with two big points for Japan while Alexey Cheremisin
responded for Russia. At 21-21, Russian captain Alexey Kazakov blocked
Fukuzawa, and Cheremisin followed up with a spike. Kazakov repeated his trick
to bring up set point. After a long Russian serve offered slight hope to Japan,
Semen Poltavskiy finished off the set with a spike and a final score of 25-22.
Japan struggled at the start of the second set, Fukuzawa
starting things off with a long serve while Matsumoto sent a spike long.
Captain Daisuke Usami then set the ball over the net as Russia leapt into a 4-1
lead. But then the Russians got sloppy and allowed Japan to get back into the
match at 9-9, Melnik slamming a spike into the net. A receiving error by
Fukuzawa allowed Russia to move back into the lead at 11-10 and Volkov
delivered a couple of telling shots as Russia took a 16-14 lead at the second
technical timeout. Kazakov then blocked Fukuzawa and Shimizu sent a spike long
to give Russia a four-point cushion. They blew two of those points with a
netted serve by Sergey Grankin and a setting error that eventually allowed Shimizu
to crash down a huge spike, but they stayed in the lead and spikes by Volkov
and Cheremisin clinched the set by the same margin, 25-22.
Shimizu started off the third set with a big smash, but
Evgeny Sivozhelez brought the Russians back into the set with two big replies
of his own and Russia were two points up at the first TTO. But they were
deducted a point when Volkov failed to take the court on time after the TTO and
Japan drew level with a service ace by Shimizu. Osamu Tanabe showed Japan's determination
with some sensational digging and the home team took the lead at 12-11 with a
Fukuzawa slam. Russia then fell apart. Anton Astashenkov mishit a spike out,
Alexey Verbov had a double touch and Poltavskiy pushed a spike wide, giving
Japan a 16-12 lead at the second TTO. Then Japan got nervous and gave up three
points on errors, but a Shimizu slam righted the Japanese ship and they were
able to maintain their lead as the set drew on. A great hit by Yoneyama gave
them set point at 24-21 and after the Russians clawed one point back, a long
spike by Sivozhelez secured the set for Japan at 25-22.
Russia deflated Japan's newfound confidence by streaking
into a 5-0 lead at the start of the fourth set. Sivozhelez came up with two big
blocks on Shimizu and added two spikes as Russia moved 6-1 ahead and 8-3 at the
first TTO. Things didn't get any better in the next phase of play as Japan
struggled to cope with the revitalized Russians. Three successive reception
mistakes from Kazakov serves put the Russians up 16-7 at the second TTO and
effectively killed off the match. Shimizu and Yoneyama gave Japan a glimmer of
hope with two successful spikes each, but Berezhko kept the Russians on top and
finished the match off with a resounding service ace.