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Serbia cruise to three-set win over Japan in World Grand Prix Finals

Brankica Mihajlovic spikes against Japan on Friday

 Sapporo, Japan, August 30, 2013 – Serbia beat Japan 3-0 (25-22, 25-17, 25-19) on the third day of the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals at Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center on Friday.

Serbia improved to 2-1 for six points and moved up to third in the standings. Japan fell to 1-2 and dropped to fourth. Serbia have now won their last four matches against Japan.

Serbia were led by Milena Rasic with 16 points and Brankica Mihajlovic with 15. Japan’s top scorer was Risa Shinnabe with 11 points.

Serbia had the advantage in blocking points, 9-6, while both teams had one service point. Japan made 21 errors to Serbia’s 15.

Mihajlovic was quickly into her spiking rhythm and contributed four points as Serbia took an 8-6 lead at the first technical timeout. Mihajlovic and teammate Milena Rasic continued to try and smash their way through the Japanese defence, but the Japanese always defend well and stayed with the Serbians through 18-18. Saori Kimura then netted a serve and a dump shot at the net by Rasic opened up a two-point gap. Serbia moved three points ahead at 23-20 after a tipover by Jovana Brakocevic and the set ended with two errant serves, by Yuki Ishii and Aimi Kawashima.

Japan’s first blocking point of the match – Nana Iwasaka on Mihajlovic – brought the scores to 2-2 in the second set but Japan struggled thereafter and coach Masayoshi Manabe called a timeout at 2-6. Despite another excellent block – this time Kanako Hirai on Mihajlovic – Japan couldn’t change the momentum and started to make errors as Serbia kept the pressure on. Serbia were eight points ahead at the second TTO. Hirai and Shinnabe landed some good shots to stop the rot but Japan couldn’t catch up. Mihajlovic came up with a good block and two spikes to bring setpoint before blasting a rocket to end the set.

Japan came out positively for the third set – Iwasaka blocked Mihajlovic for the first point – and Manabe brought in lefty Miyu Nagaoka to add power to his somewhat soft attack. Japan matched Serbia through to 8-8 but two spiking errors – a problem for Japan on the day – by Nagaoka and a block by Rasic on Saori Kimura opened up a three-point gap at 11-8 and Japan were playing catch-up again. They caught up at 14 for the last time and got within a point at 17-16 before Serbia pulled away again, helped by Japan errors. A netted spike by Nagaoka brought matchpoint and, after a kill by the same player, Kimura sent a serve long to end the match.

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