Okayama, Japan, August 14, 2010 – Japan provided the first shock of the weekend in the FIVB World Grand Prix on Saturday with a sensational 3-1 (25-19, 25-21, 19-25, 25-16) win over previously undefeated Poland at home in Okayama.
Japan improved to 4-1, the same record as Poland.
Japan dominated the first two sets before going off the rails in the third, but they came back strong in the fourth set and were helped by captain Erika Araki.
Saori Kimura lead Japan with 22 points, while the Poles' top scorer was Katarzyna Gajgal with 19 points.
After a slightly nervy start when the hosts let the first serve of the match go before seeing their first spike attempt blocked by Karolina Kosek, Japan held their nerve and fought back through Mai Yamaguchi's clever spiking and a great block by Kaori Inoue on Agnieszka Bednarek-Kasza. Japan maintained a slender lead through to the second technical timeout with both sides spiking well and making few errors. From 10-8 to 19-17 there was never more than two points between the two teams. A Saori Kimura spike extended Japan's lead to 20-17 and from there they never looked back, a netted spike by Katarzyna Skowronska-Dolata sealing the set.
Japan's excellent form continued into the second set with great movement, great defense and great setting from Yoshie Takeshita and good offense. Poland didn't help their cause with some nervy errors as Japan streaked to an 8-2 lead at the first TTO. It was 15-9 before Japan took their foot off the accelerator and allowed Poland a glimmer of hope. Japan coach Masayoshi Manabe called a timeout and Bednarek-Kasza planted her next serve into the net. But Japan had lost their edge and successive long spikes by Saori Sakoda and Kimura, and a block by Berenika Okuniewska on Sakoda allowed Poland to creep to within three points at 18-15. Once again, Manabe called a timeout and once again Poland sent a serve into the net. But Japan errors allowed Poland to close the gap to one point at 21-20 before Inoue calmed things down with a spike after more terrific Japanese defense. The set ended after a setting error brought Japan setpoint and a receiving miss by Kosek put the home team 2-0 up.
The long break between the second and third sets seemed to revitalize Poland, while Japan looked flat as they fell behind 5-2, forcing Manabe into an early timeout. Suddenly, Japan were struggling to get into the game, while Poland looked more like the team that had a 4-0 record in the tournament. Two errors – a long serve by Akiko Ino and the failure to pick up a serve by Katarzyna Gajgal – and a block by Milena Sadurek on Yukiko Ebata saw the Poles extend their lead to six points before taking the set thanks to a spike from Kosek.
Japan picked up their game in the fourth, helped by an error-strewn display from the Poles, leading 9-1. After stretching their lead to nine points with a fabulous block by Ai Yamamoto on 191-cm Joanna Kaczor, Japan lost control again and their huge lead was whittled down to just three at 12-9 behind the serve of Skowronska-Dolata. Manabe brought in captain Erika Araki to steady the ship and Japan's lead increased to six at the second TTO. Two terrific smashes by Kimura helped Japan maintain their lead and Araki was huge as the match drew to its climax. A mis-hit shot by Kimura brought matchpoint, which she converted with a spike that the Poles couldn't handle.
Sunday will see Japan take on Chinese Taipei and Poland face Germany