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Italy edges Japan in four sets

Italy's Simona Gioli earns a point against Japan

Tokyo, Japan, August 21, 2010 – Italy overcame Japan in four sets (25-23, 27-25, 21-25, 25-23) on Saturday in the 2010 FIVB World Grand Prix in Tokyo to score their sixth win of this year's tournament.

Japan found their rhythm quickly, with Yukiko Ebata in great form early on. Ebata had three good spikes as Japan took an 8-5 lead at the first technical timeout, while Ai Yamamoto contributed a huge block on Cristina Barcellini. But Italy soon found their stride, with Lucia Bosetti scoring some great spikes and the Italians defending superbly. Yamamoto tried to keep Japan close, but the Italians were three points ahead at the second TTO. After two more points earned by Bosetti, Japan coach Masayoshi Manabe was forced to call a timeout. Japan's biggest problem was that Italy was out-thinking the hosts, mixing up their serves and shot placements, and blocking well. At 20-15, Manabe called another timeout to try and fix things and it worked, as five points later the scores were level at 20-20. On the next point, Yuko Sano made two awesome digs, leading to a good cross-court spike by Mai Yamaguchi that put Japan in front again. It was level at 23-23 when the Italians made a good block on Saori Kimura to earn setpoint, which Antonella Del Core converted after a lengthy rally.

Both teams played tough Volleyball at the start of the second set, but Italy had the advantage, spiking well and defending brilliantly. But Japan also improved their defense with Yoshie Takeshita emulating Sano with some sensational digs. Meanwhile, Ebata was in great form at the net, earning Japan four points in the second phase as they edged Italy 16-15 at the second TTO. There hadn't been more than a point between the two teams since 8-6 in Italy's favor, but a good serve by Mizuho Ishida and a wide spike by Barcellini put Japan three points up at 18-15. The margin stayed the same to 23-20 when a big thump from Del Core and some stupendous Italian defending narrowed the scores to 23-22. Manabe called a timeout, but Del Core brought the scores level. Manabe called another timeout. Japan held on but were finding it hard to penetrate the Italian defense. Francesca Piccinini then made a super block on Yamaguchi to earn setpoint at 26-25 and Bosetti hit a spike to put Italy 2-0 up.

Manabe called his players off court after quickly dropping to 0-4 deficit in the third set, and Japan were still out of sorts at the first TTO, when they found themselves five points behind. Yamamoto earned two points from short sets by Takeshita, and a block by Kimura on Jenny Barazza forced Italian coach Massimo Barbolini to call a timeout with the score at 9-7. Kimura and Yamaguchi came up with great blocks as Japan pressured Italy, but the Italians were doing enough to stay out in front. But a huge spike from Kimura brought the scores level at 17-17. Kimura brought the scores level again at 18-18 and put Japan two points ahead with two more shots through the Italian defense. She then came up with a massive block on Bosetti and another scintillating spike to give Japan a three-point cushion at 22-19. A Yamaguchi spike made that four points before Italy clawed two points back. A Yamaguchi blast earned Japan three setpoints, but they only needed one, as Yamamoto made a terrific block on Piccinini.

Kimura and Ebata both came up big as Japan took a two-point lead at the first TTO in the fourth set. Two great Italian blocks on Ebata drew Italy level at 11-11 and it was neck and neck at 15-15. Japan opened up a three-point gap with Kimura again involved, but after Barbolini called a timeout, the Italians drew level, Serena Ortolani earning three straight points. A netted shot by Kaori Inoue finally put the Italians in front and Bosetti increased the gap to two points. A shot by Simona Gioli brought up matchpoint and a fortunate shot from Del Core found space in the Japanese court to seal the match for Italy.

On Sunday Japan face the Netherlands as Italy play the Dominican Republic.


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