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Japan rally to overcome Germany

The Japanese players celebrate a point against Germany as they pick up their third win of the 2010 FIVB World Grand Prix
Okayama, Japan, August 13, 2010 – Japan secured their third win of the 2010 FIVB World Grand Prix coming from behind to defeat Germany 3-1 (26-28, 25-17, 25-20, 25-11) at home in Okayama on Friday taking them to fifth in the standings.

After an intense first set, the home team got better and better with a strong all-around performance, but it was star attacker Saori Kimura who led the scoring with 21 points. Kimura, Ai Yamamoto and Mai Yamaguchi each contributed 14 spiked points, while Kimura added six service points. Koari Inoue contributed nine blocking points for Japan. The Germans were lead by Anne Matthes with 15 points.

Germany were clearly fired up for the match, but Japan had a slight edge from the start with good spiking from Yamaguchi. However, the Germans were battling hard and forced Japan into a couple of poor errors (a receiving mistake by Yamaguchi and a misplaced spike by Yamamoto). As a result, the Germans found themselves in the ascendancy at the first technical timeout (8-5), but it wasn't to last. Kimura suddenly found her range and the Germans had trouble dealing with her spikes. She put Japan ahead at 12-11 and a huge block by Kaori Inoue on Margareta Kozuch saw the home team gain a two-point lead. A Maren Brinker block and two Japan errors allowed the Germans to take control again, and Brinker scored a couple more spikes before a great block by Corina Ssuschke on Yukiko Ebata put Germany four points ahead at 19-15. Kimura fired back with two spikes and a sensational block by Inoue had the scores level at 21. Japan then had to claw their way back into the game from 24-22, but they couldn't overcome the Germans. Brinker spiked her team to setpoint and Tatjana Zautys drove a shot through the Japan defense to seal the opener 28-26.

Kozuch gave Germany an early advantage in the second set, but a netted serve by Anne Matthes handed the momentum back to Japan. Inoue then came up with a pair of huge blocks on Brinker and Kimura followed up with successive service aces. A spike by the hard-hitting Saori Sakoda – in for Ebata – gave Japan an 8-4 lead at the first TTO as as the hosts pressed home their advantage. Sakoda came up big again and Yuko Sano made a typically brilliant dig to help Japan stay on top. Now the Japanese were fired up. Yamaguchi delivered two more big points, followed by Sakoda (aided by a magical recovery from Sano) and Japan were in command. Yamamoto used some great placed shots to earn three more points for Japan – the last of which brought up setpoint – and Inoue sealed the set with a shot down the line.

Brinker fired Germany into a 2-0 lead to start the third set, but Japan fought back behind a great service spell by Kimura. Sakoda contributed a big block on Ssuschke and a spike by the same player put Japan 6-3 up. Matthes helped bring the Germans back to parity at 8-8, but then they became sloppy and a confident Japan moved into a four-point lead at the second TTO. Sakoda – and great defense by Japan – maintained the pressure on Germany and two spiked points by Inoue brought up setpoint, which was converted by Yamaguchi.

Two long hits by Matthes gave Japan early momentum in the fourth set, which only increased when Inoue came up with two huge blocks. The Germans followed that with successive missed shots that helped Japan to an 8-3 lead at the first TTO. All this came on an impressive serving spell by Kimura that saw Japan go from 4-3 to 9-3. At 12-5, the Germans called their second timeout – but time was running out as Sakoda's third successive spike stretched that lead to eight points. But three straight errors by Japan set the alarm bells ringing and coach Masayoshi Manabe was forced into calling a timeout at 15-9. It seemed to work as Denise Hanke sent her next service long. There was to be no way back for Germany as they went into freefall from there and could only manage two more points. As if to sum up their performance, the match ended with two German errors.

Japan will have another tough game on Saturday when they face Poland, while the Germans will face Chinese-Taipei.


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