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Yokohama Arena during the Japan-China match
The Final Round of the 2008 FIVB World Grand Prix
was held at the 17,000-seat Yokohama Arena in Yoko-
hama, Japan.
The arena was modeled after New York’s Madison
Square Garden and first opened its doors in 1989, 130
years after the port city officially opened its doors to
foreign trade.
Yokohama has a deep connection with foreign countri-
es, with the port quickly becoming the base for most
foreign trade in Japan.
While the city had never before hosted such a big Vol-
leyball event, enthusiasm for the sport in the area is
growing and the staging of the Grand Prix was a wel-
come and exciting challenge for Japan’s second-largest
city.
The matches were heavily attended, and were particu-
larly noisy events when the host team was in action.
Yokohama is the capital of Kanagawa Prefecture, which
is host to top Japanese club side NEC Red Rockets and
the birthplace of many Japan National Team players.
“Mama-san Volleyball,” one of the most popular forms
of Volleyball in Japan where women gather to compete
and socialize, is also popular in Kanagawa. Many ele-
mentary school students in the area attend these “Ma-
ma-san” events, cheering not only for Japan but also for
the other participating teams as well.
The venue: Yokohama Arena
fore the unbeaten South Americans staged a 4-1 run
to widen their lead to 23-19 thanks to a block from
Walewska Oliveira and Sheilla Castro against Megumi
Kurihara and consecutive spiking mistakes from the
Japanese.
After Kurihara came back for a smash to cut it to 23-
20, Paula Pequeno made it 24-20. The tenacious Ja-
panese staved off three set points to pull within 24-
23, but a serve error of Kurihara awarded the opener
to Brazil. The story of the first set was cloned in the
second. Again the Brazilians were 24-20 before two
spikes from Kurihara and a block on Pequeno Trai-
ling helped Japan make it a one-point game. On their
fourth set point, Fofao delivered the ball to the right
side for Sheilla Castro, who slammed home for the set
winner. In the third set, Brazil surged away at 17-15
and never looked back. Sheilla Castro led Brazil with
16 points and Pequeno and Steinbrecher added 13
and 12 respectively.
The first set of the match between Cuba and Italy was
also fiercely contested until the Italians opened up a
three-point gap with a Francesca Piccinini spike on
the left for 19-16, forcing Cuba to call the first Time
Out of the match. Kenia Carcaces continued to lead
the Cuban reply, but there was nothing the Cuban
block could do to stop Serena Ortolani’s smooth spike
on the right for 21-18. At this point, Santos exploded
on the right for a couple of Cuban winners, and Italy
went off for a timeout hanging on to a one-point lead,
21-20. Trailing 23-21, a Cuban block on Ortolani and
a Ruiz special from the left brought Cuba level at 23-
23, sending Italy into their second Time Out.
In a tense finish to the first set, Italy took it at 30-28
on their fourth set point when Barazza blocked Bar-
ros at the center. Cuba fought back strongly to take
the second set 25-18 and continued the momentum in
the third for a 16-10 cushion at the second Technical
Time Out and held it to 24-21. Italy withstood two set
points to pull within 24-23, only for Daimi Ramirez to
spike hard at an angle to end the set at 25-23. In the
fourth set, the Italians went down more tamely.
Ramirez made 15 kills in 17 attempts for 18 points to
lead five Cuba players in reaching double digits.
In the first match of the day, Tayyiba Haneef-Park sco-
red a game-high 23 points to lift the United States over
China in a five-set thriller. After the two sides traded
points to tie it at 14-all in the tiebreak, Haneef-Park
made it 15-14, but Xue struck again for deuce, saving
a second match point. Again Haneef-Park brought up
match point, and won it at the third attempt, 17-15.
Zhao Ruirui led China with 20 points and Wang Yimei
added 18.
Yumilka Ruiz Luaces spikes against Italy
2008 FIVB World Grand Prix
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