Kielce, Poland, August 2, 2009: In the last day of the FIVB WGP 2009 1st Preliminary Round tournament in Kielce host Poland defeated Japan in straight sets 3-0 (25-20, 26-24, 27-25) and gained first ever win in World Grand Prix competition in front of its audience. Thanks to this historical victory Poland secured third place in Pool B while Japan is leaving Kielce with disadvantageous win loss record (0-3).
Joanna Kaczor was chosen as the MVP of the match (she gained 13 points). However the best scorer in Polish team was Anna Baranska (17 points). Migumi Kurihara earned 15 points for Japan.
Before the game both teams were disappointed about their previous defeats in Kielce but Jerzy Matlak, as well as Masayoshi Manabe, stressed that their teams have started a new period in a history and have some more important goals than winning single WGP games or tournaments. After Olympics in Beijing the Japan Volleyball Association decided to build a new team - with a different coach and some new, young players in order to prepare it for the 2012 London Olympics. On the other hand, Jerzy Matlak’s team, also with some big changes in rooster comparing to Olympics in Beijing (mainly due to the injuries) is focused on the Europeans in Poland and already feels a huge pressure from the Polish supporters and media. That is why the two highest ranked teams (according to the FIVB ranking) were fighting in Kielce only for the third place in the tournament.
The Poles started the game with big determination in defense and jump out to 4-1 also due to the Japanese unforced errors in attack. When middle – blocker Dorota Pykosz committed two mistakes in attack Japan drew up the score (6-6). However thanks to the excellent and powerful service by Anna Baranska Poland went on two point’s lead at the first TTO (8-6). Difficult and clever service of experienced Joshie Takeshita gave Japan another draw (10-10). Due to the problems with reception Poles lost the advantage (12-13). The game became very open and Jerzy Matlak decided to change the setter (Izabela Belcik replaced Milena Sadurek) and the opposite (Anna Wozniakowska substituted Joanna Kaczor). After that Polish team regained the lead very quickly (16-13) but Japan didn’t give up (18-17, 19-18). Block on Saori Kimura gave Polish team point number 21 and Nasayoshi Manabe asked for time-out (21-18). It didn’t help as Japanese players committed two errors in attack and Polish team’s victory in the first set was secured after brilliant kill by Anna Baranska from the left wing (25-20).
The second set has started better for Japan (1-3) however Poles immediately tied the score (3-3). Anna Baranska who scored 7 points in the first set was still very efficient in attack and had a very difficult service (6-5). Poland was ahead of Japan by 1 point at the first TTO (8-7). Also spiker Aleksandra Jagielo (who replaced Dorota Swieniewicz in the first line-up comparing to the Saturday’s game) played very successful in attack (10-8). However, Japan managed to regained the lead after Dorota Pykosz’s mistake in attack (11-12). The game was very competitive (13-13) but Poland was leading at the second TTO by 2 points (16-14) due to the Japanese players’ errors. After powerful attack by Joanna Kaczor and excellent service by Izabela Belcik Polish advantage’s increased to 3 points (18-15). A few minutes later Japan scored 3 points in a row and the scoreboard was 19-19. The end of the set was very exciting (21-21, 23-23). Very efficient Megumi Kurihara gave her team a set point (23-24) but Poles defended it (24-24), regained the lead and won the set after Joanna Kaczor’s smart soft attack.
Although two winning sets gave Polish team the confidence, the beginning of the third set was more successful for Japan (5-7 and 6-8 at the first TTO). Poland managed to reduce the difference (9-9) and built up the advantage (13-10) due to Megumi Kurihara mistakes in attack. After an ace by the captain Erika Araki Japan cut the margin (15-14) but Joanna Kaczor presented impressive back-row attack and Poland was leading 16-14 at the second TTO. An ace by Hiroko Okano equalized the score (18-18). When Megumi Kurihara gained very important point in counter-attack and Joanna Kaczor was blocked, Japan went on 18-20. At that stage of the game Poland was under the Japanese pressure (20-22, 22-24) but survived (24-24, 25-25), managed to gain the match-point (26-25) and ultimately won the game after two fantastic counter-attacks by Aleksandra Jagielo.