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Resurgent Japan back on track with win over Korea

Japan's Ai Yamamoto (right) and Korea's Kim Se-Young face off at the net
Tokyo, August 20, 2011 – Japan recovered from Friday's loss to Serbia with an intense 3-0 (25-19, 25-22, 29-27) win over Korea in a Pool L match in the 2011 FIVB World Grand Prix at Ariake Colosseum on Saturday. The win boosted Japan's chances of reaching the Final Round in Macau, but both Korea and Japan have tough final games in the Preliminary Round. Japan will face Russia, while Korea will play Serbia. 

Japan were led by Saori Kimura with 15 points and Mai Yamaguchi and Saori Sakoda with 12 apiece. Korea were once again led by Kim Yeon-Koung, who had 20 points, the only Korean to score in double figures. Japan outserved Korea 7-0. 

2011 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix
August 5-28

Korea got off to a dreadful start, including four reception errors in the first phase. Coach Kim Hyung-Sil hauled his players off court at 1-4 but poor play and a couple of stinging spikes by Sakoda saw Japan cruise into an 11-3 lead, banishing the misery of their performance against Serbia the night before. After falling 10 points behind at 15-5 with a great block by Saori Kimura on dangerous lefty Hwang Youn-Joo, Korea started to get their game together and they pulled back from 20-12 to 24-19 – when Japan coach Masayoshi Manabe called a timeout – but a long serve by Hwang ended the set. 

But Korea had their rhythm back and they streaked into a 6-2 lead in the second set, forcing Manabe to call a timeout. A five-point Korea run ended when Japan captain Erika Araki blocked Korean ace Kim Yeon-Koung, but Korea were six points ahead again at 9-3. But not for long. Mai Yamaguchi contributed a couple of neat tipovers, while Japan got most of their points from Korean errors as they turned the score around and moved into a 12-10 lead, when Kim called a timeout. Japan moved into overdrive behind a couple of big kills by Kimura and pulled into the second technical timeout four points ahead. But the Koreans fought back through Kim and Hwang and drew to within a point at 20-19. A brilliant set by Yoshie Takeshita set up Yamaguchi for a spike and a superb block by Sakoda on Kim Hye-Jin put Japan four points up. A tipover by Kimura brought up setpoint and a big drive by the in-form Sakoda put Japan 2-0 up. 

Japan again got off to a hot start in the third set with Sakoda finding her range early on, but then they got sloppy and allowed Korea back in. Good work by Han Song-Yi gave Korea a one-point lead at 9-8, but Japan came back through Erika Araki, who blocked Han and delivered a spike that put Japan back in front. A service ace by Kimura gave Japan a three-point cushion at 13-10 and they maintained this to the second TTO. Kim Yeon-Koung dragged Korea back with a huge spike and a pushover, and a block by Lee Sook-Ja on Maiko Kano brought the scores level at 16. Japan edged ahead; Korea pulled back and went ahead at 20-19 on a hit by Han. Then Korea were cruising as they stretched their lead to 23-19. Japan rescued a point before Korea earned four setpoints on a half hit by Kim Hye-Jin. But Japan fought back superbly and drew level at 24, before saving three more setpoints. They finally earned matchpoint on a tipover by Kimura and clinched the match when Korea failed to deal with a Sakoda serve.

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