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Cuba too strong for error-prone Japan

Roland Cepeda goes up for a spike against Japan on Sunday.

Toyama, Japan, June 28, 2009 – Cuba overcame Japan 25-22, 25-21, 25-18 in the second match of their two-match World League series at Toyama City Gymnasium on Sunday.

Japan were keen to avenge their defeat on Saturday, but Cuba showed they had plenty of fight, as well as strength in depth, and were always on top in the match.

Fifteen-year-old Wilfredo Leon was the top scorer for Cuba with 12 points, including three blocks; no Cuban player spiked into double figures. Japan were led by Kunihiro Shimizu with 16 points. Japan committed 22 errors, only one less than the day before.

Both sides got into a spiking rhythm early in the set, but Japan was still plagued by the service errors that hurt them in Saturday's game. Yuta Yoneyama started the match with a netted serve, and Shimizu and Tatsuya Fukuzawa followed suit. In the leadup to an 8-7 advantage at the first technical timeout, Cuba gained three points with blocks, including great back-to-back efforts by Osmani Camejo on Yoshihiko Matsumoto and Yoneyama. Shimizu landed a couple of decent spikes as Japan kept pace with Cuba to 11-11, but Cuba edged two points in front at the second TTO. But with neither side dominating, the set could have gone either way. Cuba maintained their one- or two-point lead; Japan couldn't find a breakthrough. The clincher came with Cuba leading 21-20. Japan failed to set up a decent spike and Yoandi Leal easily blocked Fukuzawa to make it 22-20. Then a poor reception by Japan allowed Leon an unopposed first-time return. Japan clawed back one point through Yoneyama, but captain Daisuke Usami sent a serve long to hand Cuba setpoint. Cuba captain Roberlandy Simon then clinched the set 25-22 with a spike down the middle.

The two teams started out evenly in the second set, but at 3-3 Fukuzawa netted a spike and then was unable to handle Simon's big serve, putting Cuba 5-3 up. Two big hits from Michael Sanchez gave Cuba a 7-4 lead, but then a netted serve by the same player let Japan back in. Yoneyama made a fantastic block on Sanchez and followed up with a spike to pull Japan level at 7-7, but Usami netted a serve and Cuba stretched out a lead again, going ahead 11-8 on a spike by Sanchez. But Japan were in fighting mood and not prepared to let Cuba run away with it, a fact emphasized by improved defense, including great blocks by Shimizu and Matsumoto. Shimizu also started spiking better and this helped Japan draw level at 15-15. But two long serves – by Usami and Yoneyama – gave Cuba the advantage again and when Leon blocked Shimizu, they were three points up at 20-17. After another long Japanese service and a long spike by Fukuzawa, Cuba were 24-21 ahead. Yusuke Inoue was then unable to handle a thumping serve by Leal and Odelvis Dominico had an easy spike to finish the set off at 25-21.

Japan struggled from the off at the start of the third set – Yoneyama again serving wide, Fukuzawa again mishandling a Cuban serve – and found themselves 8-4 down at the first TTO. Two more poor serves from Japan and Cuba, playing largely a second-string lineup and with top scorer Leon in subdued mood, were 10-5 ahead. More poor serving from Japan ensured that that margin would remain at the second TTO and would need a serious Cuban collapse to remain in the match. That wasn't going to happen. Two blocks on Fukuzawa (by Camejo and Simon) showed how Japan's attack had been blunted, and they then needed to pull themselves out of a seven-point hole. Even helped by some sloppy serving from Cuba couldn't really help the home side and a towering spike by Leon put Cuba 23-16 up. Leal spiked his team to setpoint and Leon hit another huge spike to finish off the set and the match.







  

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