FIVB Men's World Olympic Qualification Tournament 2012 | Japan

Press release

Japan outlast brave Puerto Rico in four sets

Kota Yamamura for Japan block against Puerto Rico at the last match of the day in Tokyo

Tokyo, June 9, 2012 – Japan survived a tough encounter with Puerto Rico to win 3-1 (22-25, 25-21, 25-19, 25-16) on the penultimate day of action in the FIVB Men’s Olympic Qualification Tournament at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Saturday. 

Japan is now 4-2, while Puerto Rico dropped their sixth straight game.

Tatsuya Fukuzawa and Kunihiro Shimizu were the joint top scorers for Japan with 15 points each, while Juan Figueroa led Puerto Rico with 18 points. Japan outblocked Puerto Rico 9-4, but Puerto Rico had the edge on serves, 5-2. Puerto Rico committed 36 errors to Japan’s 19.

Both teams came out strong at the start and there was nothing in it in the first phase of the set. Puerto Rico opened up the first two-point margin at 10-8 after a spike by Juan Figueroa, prompting Japan coach Tatsuya Ueta to call a timeout. Puerto Rico scored five unanswered points to lead 13-8 before Lozada Ezequiel Cruz hit a serve into the net. Puerto Rico coach Carlos Cardona called a timeout at 13-11 after a good block by Yoshihiko Matsumoto on Cruz, but Matsumoto repeated the trick immediately afterward. However, Japan trailed by three points at the second technical timeout. Tatsuya Fukuzawa pulled Japan closer with two thumping spikes, but Cruz was also hot. A netted serve by Roberto Muniz pulled Japan to within a point at 20-19 and a cracking drive by Fukuzawa saw the two teams even at 20-20. Two Japan errors allowed Puerto Rico to creep ahead again and an ace by Enrique Escalante gave them three setpoints. Captain Jose Rivera sealed the set – only Puerto Rico’s second of the tournament – with a classy disguised tipover. 

Japan started brightly in the second set and were helped by a soft service ace from Kota Yamamura, who also came up with a smart block on Rivera. They led 8-5 at the first TTO but it stayed tight with both teams playing well. A soft and superbly disguised service ace by Rivera and a block by Muniz on Kunihiro Shimizu forced Ueta to call a timeout with Japan just a point ahead at 15-14. A spike by Yoneyama relieved the pressure at the second TTO and a mis-hit by Figueroa put Japan three points ahead again. The match was tight and both teams fought hard, but Japan maintained their slender advantage. Towards the end they were helped by two service errors by Puerto Rico, the second of which – by Muniz – brought up setpoint. Rivera then pushed a shot into the net and the teams were level at 1-1.

The match stayed incredibly tight in the third set. Figueroa, Rivera, Escalante and Muniz kept the pot boiling for Puerto Rico, while Fukuzawa and Matsumoto were leading Japan. Japan finally saw a little daylight at 12-10 when Matsumoto blocked Escalante and Cardona called a timeout. Strong spikes by Yoneyama, Fukuzawa and Matsumoto helped Japan to a four-point lead at the second TTO. Yoneyama and Shimizu helped extend that to six points, forcing Cardona to use another timeout.  In truth, both teams were fighting hard, but Japan had the edge and strong support from the crowd. Setpoint came at 24-18 from a big Shimizu kill and Yoneyama put Japan 2-1 up with a tough hit under pressure.

Puerto Rico won the first point of the fourth set when Fukuzawa plonked his serve into the net, but missed shots by Escalante and Figueroa prompted Cardona to call a timeout at 1-3. Cardona got plenty of support from his captain Rivera, who seemed like a one-man army keeping Japan at bay. He delivered four monster hits to keep his team on even terms with Japan in the early stages. Yamamura then came up with two brilliant blocks on Figueroa to give Japan a two-point cushion at 9-7. Puerto Rico clung on, before three bombs by Shimizu, Fukuzawa and Yoneyama gave Japan a four-point lead at 13-9 and prompted another timeout from Cardona. Fukuzawa followed up with a stunning reverse set for Shimizu from behind the line and the move was finished off with another huge blow from the Japanese. Rivera disputed a decision on the next point and earned a yellow card, putting Japan 16-9 up. There was no way back for the brave Puerto Ricans. Matsumoto brought up matchpoint with a strong hit and Rivera then slapped the ball into the net to end the match.

In their final match, Japan will face Iran, while Puerto Rico will take on Korea.

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