Tokyo, Japan, August 22, 2010 – In Sunday's second thriller in the 2010 FIVB World Grand Prix in Tokyo, the Netherlands overcame Japan in five long sets (25-19, 22-25, 38-36, 16-25, 15-11) in their final game of the tournament.
The Netherlands finish in seventh place as Japan move onto Ningbo, China for the Final Round next weekend.
Japan coach Masayoshi Manabe kept some of his more experienced players on the bench at the start of the match – and it showed. The Japanese couldn't do anything right and Manabe was forced to call a timeout at 1-5. Although Saori Kimura landed a beautiful spike down the line after the first technical timeout, at 2-11 Manabe had to call another sideline conference. With Japan 10 points down, Manabe brought in captain Erika Araki, who had an immediate impact with a decent spike and then a super block on Dutch ace Manon Flier. But at the second TTO, Japan were still 10 points back. Japan started to find some kind of rhythm at 10-20. Kaori Inoue made a fortunate tipover for a point before making a great block on Maret Grothues and Japan were on a roll, closing the gap to five points at 23-18. But a rocket hit by Flier and a brilliant delicately placed shot by Grothues ended the set.
Normal service resumed for Japan in the second set and the early phase was close. Caroline Wensink landed a couple of good shots but also sent a couple more long as the Dutch edged Japan by one point at the first TTO. The Netherlands moved out in front behind a couple of Japan errors and a good block from Flier on Yukiko Ebata. But two Dutch errors and a good block by Inoue on Chaine Staelens helped Japan to a one-point advantage at the second TTO. Japan benefited from two brilliant blocks – Araki on Grothues and Inoue on Flier – as they crept ahead by two points at 21-19, but the Dutch were soon level. A Kimura spike and a wide shot by Flier restored Japan's two-point advantage. At 23-22, Kimura planted a lovely shot into the back court for setpoint and then leveled the match with a service ace.
A couple of Japanese errors, including a rare service miss by Yoshie Takeshita, and two good Dutch blocks put the Dutch in the driving seat at the start of the third set and they were three points up at the first TTO. The Japanese were struggling to find any rhythm, while the Dutch kept the pressure up, and Manabe was forced to call a timeout at 7-11. It had the right effect. Ebata landed two spikes and made a good block on Francien Huurman. Japan drew level at 12-12 when Inoue made a huge block on Flier. But the Dutch pulled away again to lead by three at the second TTO. Japan hung on with some brilliant defending and pulled level at 18. The Dutch came back with a spike and block from Grothues, but Kimura delivered three beautiful shots and Inoue came up with another fabulous block to give Japan the lead at 22-21. Kimura turned the game around with successive errors, handing the Netherlands setpoint at 24-23. Ebata saved that and another setpoint before Kimura redeemed herself after a long spike with two excellent shots that handed Japan a setpoint of its own. Japan blew two chances with long serves as the set went long. Japan saved nine setpoints in total before wide shots from Ebata and Inoue put the Dutch 2-1 up after a 74-point set.
Things remained close at the start of the fourth set, but three errors by the Dutch allowed Japan to pull away to 11-7 and Dutch coach Avital Selinger called a timeout. Huurman made a neat save with her foot at one point, but it only delayed Japan's progress. Good shots from Kimura and Araki helped Japan to a 16-10 lead at the second TTO. Grothues landed some good shots that temporarily halted Japan, but a big drive from Mizuho Ishida brought up setpoint and an unreturned serve from Hiroko Matsuura sent the match to a fifth set.
The two teams were level through 7-7, but two hits by Flier and a receiving error by Japan put the Dutch on top. Wensink and Staelens both played cleverly placed shots to gain points before a wide hit by Ishida handed matchpoint to the Netherlands. A smart cross-court spike by Wensink finished things off.