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Press release

Japan overcomes Czech Republic in tiebreak match

Yukiko Ebata of Japan spikes against the Czech Republic on Sunday

 Sendai, Japan, August 18, 2013 – In an entertaining showdown between the two winless teams in Pool M of the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix on Sunday, Japan overcame the Czech Republic 3-2 (25-18, 22-25, 28-26, 23-25, 15-13) at Sendai City Gymnasium. 

Japan raised their record in the World Grand Prix to 7-2 while the Czechs dropped to 2-7. The Czech Republic’s loss to Bulgaria on Saturday meant they couldn’t advance to the Finals. 

Japan, however, will have a place in the Finals, as the host team. 

Risa Shinnabe (28 points) and Yukiko Ebata (25) were the leading scorers for Japan, while Aneta Havlickova led the Czechs with 29.

The Czechs had 16 blocking points to Japan’s nine, while the Japanese led on service points, 8-6. Japan committed 28 errors to the Czech Republic’s 26.

The Czechs just weren’t in the game at the start of the match. Leading scorer Aneta Havlickova was blocked twice by Nana Iwasaka as Japan jumped out to a 4-0 lead, prompting Czech coach Carlo Parisi to call a timeout. Havlickova then missed the target with a couple of shots and Japan were six points ahead at the first technical timeout. The introduction of Michaela Mlejnkova – who turned 17 last month – added a spark to the Czech attack and when Havlickova started to land bombs in the Japan court it turned into more of a contest. But Japan are not the best diggers in the competition for no reason and their brilliant defence helped them stay ahead. A return to form by Yukiko Ebata was another bonus and her fifth kill of the match earned Japan the first set.

More brilliant defence helped Japan into an early lead in the second set, but the Czechs responded with some tough hits from Kristyna Pastulova and Michaela Monzoni and led by two at the first TTO. Parisi called a timeout when Japan levelled at 10 following two good points by Iwasaka at the net and it turned into a good contest after that. Local girl Arisa Sato, Japan’s libero, lit up the arena with an inspired fake set, while Mlejnkova responded with a neat dummy tipover of her own. Japan were a point up at 19-18 when two errors by Haruka Miyashita and a service ace by Tereza Vanzurova handed the momentum to the Czechs. Japan coach Masayoshi Manabe called two timeouts in the space of three points and his team closed to 22-21, prompting Parisi to call a halt, but the Czechs were looking good  and Havlickova made the match score 1-1 with a block on Ebata and a spike on the right.

Risa Shinnabe inspired Japan early in the third set with two terrific kills and a service ace, and Ebata then slugged a couple of spikes of her own to put Japan three points up at the first TTO. A point later – after the Czechs failed to handle another Shinnabe service – Parisi called a timeout and Shinnabe plonked her next serve into the net. Japan were ahead 14-11 when they started to make errors – a missed set, a netted serve and a netted spike – and the Czechs found themselves a point ahead at the second TTO. A sloppy patch by Japan was matched by the Czechs and the two teams were level at 21 after a service ace by Miyashita after which Parisi called a timeout. After that, it was neck and neck. The Czechs saved two setpoints and Japan one before a service ace by Ebata and a two-touch error by the Czechs handed the set to Japan 28-26.

Japan got good blocks from Riho Otake and Saori Kimura as they moved into an 8-5 lead at the start of the fourth set and the Czechs went off the boil. Good hitting from Shinnabe put Japan in the driving seat at 16-10, but after Manabe made a couple of substitutions, they lost their way and the Czechs drew level. Shinnabe then wasted all her good work by handing setpoint to the Czechs by planting a serve into the net and a block by Monzoni on Ebata took the match into a tiebreaker.  

Parisi called a timeout after Japan took a 4-1 lead in the fifth set. The Czechs responded but an inspired Shinnabe – including a super block on Mlejnkova – kept Japan on top and they were two points ahead at the turnaround. A brilliant Otake block on Havlickova, a sharp shot from Kimura, a service ace from Otake and an error by Havlickova gave Japan a four-point cushion at 11-7, but the Czechs clung on, saving two matchpoints before Havlickova sent a shot wide to end the match.

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