Osaka, Japan, August 8, 2009: Japan staged a wonderful fightback to beat Korea 3-1 on Saturday night.
In front of 8,250 spectators at the Osaka Municipal Central Gym, Japan recovered from losing the first set 25-22 to blitz the next three 25-13, 25-18, 25-10 to improve their Grand Prix win-loss record to 2-3. Korea slipped to 0-5.
The main feature of the match was an outstanding display of sustained power jump-serving by Megumi Kurihara, earning her eight aces -- five in the second set alone to spark the revival.
Korean points machine Kim Yeon-Koung was quickly into her smooth stride, whereas Japan's spikers were wasteful in the early stages.
However, a soaring attack from Megumi Kurihara gave Japan a one-point lead at the first TTO, 8-7, and Erika Araki at the net looked hungry for points.
When Saori Kimura eluded the defence to score smoothly for 10-8, Korea called a TO as Japan built up some steam.
Middle blocker Yang Hyo-Jin, impressive against Russia the previous day, was determined to slug it out at the net and broke through the Japan defence twice in quick succession.
An Araki block on Bae Yoo-Na took Japan into the second TTO ahead 16-13, and a high leap and angled spike from Kurihara kept Japan in front.
There was no stopping Kim, though, and when she blazed an unstoppable spike for 17-17, Japan went into a TO.
Maiko Sakashita had been quiet up to this point but exploded for a flashing winner on the left, and Kimura capitalised on a poor Korean set to nudge Japan ahead again.
Poor serve reception by Korea resulted in their second TO, down 21-19, and they returned for Kim to smash her team level at 21-21. Now it was Japan who needed to regroup on the sideline, with the first set still wide open.
Yang blocked Kimura for a big point, and brilliant defence by Kim Yeon-Koung at the back enabled Kim Min-Ji to power home. Yang brought up three set points at 24-21, and Kim Min-Ji finished it 25-22 from the left.
Kurihara's powerful serving settled Japan nerves in the second set, and Sakashita blocked Kim Yeon-Koung and celebrated wildly to increase the tempo.
Araki repeated the treatment on Korea's flying No. 10 before Sakashita gobbled up a loose ball at the net for 7-2 Japan. A Kurihara bullet serve for an ace swept Japan into the first TTO with a six-point cushion.
When play resumed, Kurihara did exactly the same again, but was then angry with herself on missing a back-court attack on the next point.
Takeshita's adventurous setting opened the way for Kimura to score with an angled spike from the left, and Yuki Shoji forced her way through at the net for 12-3 Japan.
Kurihara's brilliant back-court defence then set up another chance for Kimura, which she accepted gratefully, and Korea retreated into a TO in all sorts of trouble at 13-4, dazed by a white whirlwind.
Korea continued to struggle on serve-reception, whereas Kimura's flying defence at the back court set up Sakashita for 16-5, and the second TTO.
When Korea moved the ball around and won four straight points to close the gap to 17-9, Japan took a TO to refocus, especially on serve-reception.
Kim Min-Ji was scoring some big winners on the Korean left, and Kim Yeon-Koung appeared from the back court to score with a flashing drive down the middle.
At 20-12, the home side was still comfortable, and some excellent defence on Kim Yeon-Koung paved the way for Kimura to smash through a scattered Korea court.
Kurihara's serving, with five aces in the second set, had turned the tide, and she continued the great work as the set came to a close, 25-13, 1-1.
In between the second and third sets, the Koreans practised their serve-reception, which had let them down badly in the second set.
Kimura was enjoying an influential match for Japan, but the points of Kim Yeon-Koung kept Korea right on their heels. Kim then blocked Araki to give Korea a one-point lead, 8-7, at the first TTO.
The powerful net play of Yang was giving the Japanese defence a lot to think about, apart from the threat of Kim Yeon-Koung, and Bae Yoo-Na and captain Kim Se-Young scored in quick succession as Korea's all-round attack began to blossom.
Kaori Inoue replied with a crisp drive from a clever Takeshita set, but Japan always seemed to be playing catch-up.
Kimura and Araki, the latter by pouncing on a loose ball at the net, gave Japan the rare cushion of a two-point lead at 19-17, sending Korea into a TO, and that grew to three when Yang was wide. Another Kurihara bullet serve -- her sixth ace -- made it 21-17, and an attack error by Bae sent Korea off again, trailing 22-17.
After a tense set through to 17-17, Japan had suddenly put together a five-point run to blow it wide open.
On the restart, Kim, over-stretching, fired long and now they were down by six at this critical time. With six set points from 24-18, terrible reception on Araki's floating serve gave Japan the third set 25-18, 2-1.
Kurihara served her seventh ace of the match to give Japan a 3-1 lead in the fourth, and Araki smashed a close-range winner for 4-2 as Japan tried to open an early gap.
The Korean defence was as determined and agile as ever, producing some incredible saves, but Japan's attack was relentless behind the swishing sets of Takeshita.
Down 6-2, Korea needed a break to catch their breath, but Kurihara greeted them on their return with a mighty winner for 7-2.
When Araki's serve struck the net cord and bobbled over for 8-2 at the first TTO, Japan looked to be well on the way to victory.
The Japanese were flying now, having tamed the fire of Korea, and the home side led by 10 at the second TTO. The big-match experience of the Takeshita-Araki-Kimura-Kurihara quartet was really shining through, moving Japan forward and preventing any hint of a comeback from an increasingly tiring and frustrated Korea.
Kurihara's eighth ace of a white-hot serving display made it 18-7, before Japan gave some of the newer players a run in the electrifying atmosphere of a Japan-Korea derby.
The home team romped to victory, 25-10, with Kurihara finishing the job on the left, 3-1.