Osaka, Japan, August 9, 2009: Japan completed a Kansai sweep by beating Russia 3-1 at the Osaka Municipal Central Gymnasium on Sunday night.
After losing the first set 25-20, Japan came back to take the next three 25-19, 25-15, 25-21 with an exhibition of high-speed, all-round volleyball which was too quick and varied for the world champions to master.
With this impressive victory -- their third of the weekend -- Japan improved their Grand Prix win-loss record to 3-3 overall, while dropping Russia to the same mark with this second straight defeat.
Russia held a two-point advantage at the first TTO, and excellent blocking by Yulia Sedova kept them ahead.
The teams engaged in some dizzying rallies as the first set progressed at a frenetic pace, and when captain/setter Marina Sheshenina blocked Maiko Sakashita to move Russia ahead 13-11, Japan took the first TO of the match.
On the next play, brilliant control by Sedova paved the way for Ekaterina Gamova to fire home as Russia looked to step it up.
Climbing high on the left, Tatiana Kosheleva sent an angled spike whistling home, and Russia led 16-12 at the second TTO.
Japan were finding it difficult to penetrate Russia's block, which was supported by agile ground defence, and when the world champions powered away to 18-12, Japan took their second TO.
On the restart, Sakashita gave way to Maiko Kano, but it would be Yuki Shoji who would find a way through with her attack down the middle.
Gamova was proving to be hit and miss on the Russian left, whereas the excellent all-rounder Kosheleva was much more accurate and dangerous.
Megumi Kurihara and captain Erika Araki pulled Japan closer, only for Olga Fateeva to soar on the left and fire an unstoppable winner for 23-19.
Russia wrapped up the first set with a routine block on Araki for 25-20.
Japan led 4-1 in the second set thanks to a confident back-court attack from Kano and a service ace from Shoji.
Kano was really beginning to flourish, and captain Araki capitalised on the disruption to the Russian defence with a hard spike down the middle.
The lively Saori Kimura smashed Japan into the first TTO with a four-point lead at 8-4, and Japan were now well and truly into the match.
Kurihara's strength and persistence won her another point in a net joust on Japan's left, and when a Russian attack flew wide, the Europeans took a TO down 12-7.
A Takeshita serve sailed through for 15-9, and a Russian serve error took Japan into the second TTO in a good position at 16-10.
Sedova made inroads on block and spike, but Russia in general were making far too many errors to threaten Japan's lead at this point.
Kimura was having another big match for Japan, not only with her controlled defence on Russia's power spiking but also with her ability to find spaces with her angled, slicing spikes.
Another lusty blow from Araki forced Russia into a TO down 22-17, and Japan raced to six set points at 24-18. Kano, a 21-year-old prospect and immediately looking the part at this high level, finished it 25-19 with a steepling attack from the left, 1-1.
In the third set, Japan led 8-7 at the first TTO and Shoji made the most of Takeshita's overhead set to extend the lead on the restart.
When Kimura's serve started and ended the next point for 10-7, Russia called a TO.
Kosheleva tried to get Russia moving again, and Maria Borodakova pummelled one over from close quarters to keep Japan in their sights.
But Japan's blocking, notably by Araki, earned the home team a five-point cushion, 16-11, at the second TTO.
Maintaining a high tempo and executing a series of well-worked plays, Japan were able to counter the superior height and spiking power of Russia and play the game at their pace.
Kimura and Kano both produced fizzing winners past the Russian defence to move Japan to 21-15, and when a Kano serve exposed further weak reception, Russia called a TO in trouble at 22-15.
The digging of libero Yuko Sano enabled Shoji to take Japan to within two points of the third set, and the same player brought up nine set points at 24-15. Kimura finished it 25-15, 2-1 Japan.
In the fourth set, Sedova's block on Kurihara slowed down Japan, and both Kosheleva and Gamova were able to score early points. Fateeva added to the tally, as Russia looked to build some momentum for the first time since the first set.
A Shoji block point on Fateeva, followed by a decoy leap which enabled Kimura to score crisply, earned Japan a one-point lead at the first TTO.
Neither team could break away as the set progressed, and even a two-point lead was viewed as a luxury.
On one occasion, Kimura was lucky to be awarded a point when she pushed one wide on the left, but the referee ruled a Russian touch, even as Kimura's body language said otherwise; with the help of this Japan led 16-14 at the second TTO.
Shoji took Japan into the 20s with another confident play on the right, and Araki blocked Gamova for 21-17, Russia TO.
Sedova's excellent blocking down the middle halted Japan's march, and with the lead down to 22-21 Japan went off for a TO.
A familiar sight -- a Kurihara ace -- moved Japan to three match points at 24-21, sending Russia into a TO, and the home team, and a Kano block on Fateeva did the rest, 25-21, 3-1 Japan.