KUMAMOTO — The United States completed a weekend whitewash of Japan in World League Pool B on Sunday, winning the second match of a double-header 3-0.
Once again the Americans had too much firepower in attack and a stronger block, paving the way for a 25-23, 25-22, 25-22 victory.
Not only did the win increase their lead at the top of Pool B, it completed an 8-0 sweep of Japan in World League action for the past two seasons.
The United States improved to 8-2 with two matches remaining, in Italy next week, while Japan dropped to 1-7 with four games left. The French are second on 6-4, followed by Italy at 3-5. Only the group winner advances to the six-team final round in Poland next month.
“Today’s game was better than yesterday’s,” said Japan captain Shinya Chiba.
“It was a close game but we could not score the point at the end of the set. We must learn how to score the crucial point when it is a close game.”
In the first set, the Americans called a TO when leading 22-20. Needing a boost down the stretch, Reid Priddy provided it by closing out the opening frame 25-23 on their second set point.
A Clay Stanley sizzler cross-court from the right gave the Americans a 15-10 lead in the second set, but when Japan won the next three points, USA head coach Hugh McCutcheon called a TO. The interruption worked, as Yu Koshikawa promptly served wild to give the Americans a three-point cushion at the second TTO, 16-13.
The Japanese were having to work hard for every point against the blocking of captain Tom Hoff and Co., but Koshikawa in particular refused to buckle and engaged in a series of furious exchanges with his markers.
Down 23-20, Japan called a TO to try and halt the USA momentum. The ploy worked, and a Koshikawa ace pulled Japan to within one point at 23-22 and forced a USA TO.
But Priddy brought up set point at 24-22, and superb defence from Riley Salmon enabled Stanley to crash home the winner from the right, 25-22.
The Japanese were determined to give the full house of 5,000 value for their money, and came out for the third set meaning business.
Yusuke “Gottsu” Ishijima and Koshikawa pounded winners to take Japan into the first TTO in front 8-7.
When an attempted block on Koshikawa dropped wide to leave the Americans trailing by three, 12-9, coach McCutcheon was sufficiently concerned by Japan’s fightback to call a TO.
Salmon and Stanley produced a couple of pulverising winners to close the gap to 13-12, and a net joust ended in another American point for 13-13.
Japan led again, 16-15, at the second TTO, following a point from Takaaki Tomimatsu at the net, and the same player blocked Ryan Millar on the resumption for 17-15.
Millar was not impressed, and regrouped to give his team fresh impetus and a lead of 19-17 with some crashing block points, forcing a Japan TO.
Service errors by Japan undid a lot of their good work, and there was no stopping Salmon from moving his team ahead 23-20 with another flashing winner.
A Hoff block point brought up match point at 24-20, and the dynamo Priddy finished it 25-22 in exhilarating style.