Tokorozawa, Japan, June 13, 2009 –
Russia needed to use all their power and height to overcome a
determined Japan team 25-22, 25-23, 25-16 in their opening World
League match at Tokorozawa Municipal Gymnasium on Saturday.
Japan matched the Russians over the
first two sets but needed a little extra – or a little more luck –
to beat them. They pulled the scores to 22-23 in both sets, but could
climb no higher against the powerful Russians. Japan barely showed up
for the third set.
But Japan coach Tatsuya Ueta will be
pleased with the performance of 22-year-old Tatsuya Fukuzawa, who
spiked superbly throughout the match.
Russia's Yury Berezhko, Semen
Poltavskiy and Alexey Cheremisin all contributed well for Russia, but
coach Daniele Bagnoli will have noticed the errors that crept into
their game in the third set.
Japan showed early on that they were
not going to be overwhelmed by the bigger, more powerful Russians,
but the Russians still showed off their impressive power. In the
first set, the Japanese stayed level at 5-5 when a good spike by
Berezhko and a block by captain Alexey Kazakov put the Russians two
points up. They stretched this to four points after some sloppy
Japanese play, but a brilliant short, quick set by Daisuke Usami and a
stunning quickfire spike by Fukuzawa set the Japanese back on track.
Kunihiro Shimizu followed up with the first service ace of the match
and Fukuzawa came up with another brilliant spike as Japan pulled
level at 13 all. Japan then tracked Russia to 16-16, but a long
serve by Shiro Furuta and a thumping serve by Poltavskiy handed the
momentum back to Russia and they pulled away to 23-19 aided by two
more convincing spikes by Berezhko. Another Fukuzawa thump brought
Japan back into the game before Shimizu added two points with a
winning spike, followed by a half-block and another spike that closed
the scores to 23-22. But Poltavskiy found himself unmarked for a
spike that brought setpoint, which was converted when Evgeny
Sivozhelez blocked Fukuzawa.
Russia took an early lead in the second
set, but Shimizu settled his team with a massive spike. Usami then
used quick, short passes to set up winners for Yoshihiko Matsumoto
that brought the scores to 4-4. Poltavskiy used a spike and a soft
lob to put Russia two points up at the first technical timeout and
they stretched their lead to 10-7 with a spike by Kazakov. Japan
levelled again thanks to a great spike by Fukuzawa and a receiving
error by Alexander Volkov that set up a first-time spike by Yoshihito
Matsumoto. Russia edged ahead but couldn't shake off the Japanese.
Big hits by Shimizu and Fukuzawa brought the scores level at 14-14
and at 15-15, and then another powerful effort by Shimizu put Japan
in the lead for the first time in the match. But Russia held on and
the two teams found themselves level at 22-22. The Russians blocked
Shimizu to go 23-22 up and Alexey Cheremisin's rocket serve gave his
team a set point. Japan clawed a point back but Kazakov blocked Shimizu
to clinch the set.
Things didn't get any better for Japan
at the start of the third set. Vladimir Melnik twice blocked Shimizu
and added a big spike as Russia took an 8-3 lead at the first TTO.
Japan's Yuta Yoneyama managed one good spike but three of Japan's
first four points came from service errors. Russia were hardly on top
form, but Japan's game had deserted them. Russia pulled away to 14-8
before Japan staged a rally. Shimizu finally landed a decent spike
and this was followed by a superb block from Matsumoto and a wide
spike by Cheremisin, narrowing the gap to three points at 14-11.
Japan tried to bring Shimizu into the game, but the Russians were
improving their blocking and the Japanese ace was finding it hard to
break through the Russian wall. Fukuzawa wasn't having that problem
and continued to give Japan hope with his big spikes, but the
Russians were in the ascendancy. A long serve by Shimizu handed them
matchpoint and a spike by Cheremisin finished Japan off.