OSAKA – Canada defeated Japan in five sets (25-23, 23-25, 25-27, 25-18, 15-7) in their FIVB World League match at Osaka Municipal Gymnasium on Sunday afternoon.
The victory clinched a spot in the World League finals in Mar del Plata, Argentina, later this month for the Canadians, who swept Japan in the two-match series.
Canada (8-2) could have lost in five sets to Japan (3-7) and still overtaken the Netherlands, which fell to Finland on Saturday night, for the top spot in Group C.
After narrowly taking the first set, Canada struggled while dropping the next two before regaining their footing and rallying for the win.
Canada executed well in the fourth set and kept the pressure on in the fifth, again displaying strong blocking and attacking skills as it posted its sixth straight World League triumph.
Japan passed and defended well, and had some inspiring play at times, but it was not enough on this day.
Dallas Soonias notched a match-high 24 points for Canada. John Gordon Perrin and Rudy Verhoeff added 18 each in the win.
Tatsuya Fuzukawa topped Japan with 21 points, while Yu Koshikawa contributed 20 in the losing effort.
“It was a much better performance by Japan today,” said Canada coach Glenn Hoag. “We did not serve so well. Japan received very well.”
Japan appeared to let down after taking a 2-1 lead, according to Hoag.
“In the fourth set it seemed like their level dropped and we were able to go on and win the match,” he stated. “I told the players to stay focused in the fourth set and keep doing what they had been doing. We remained patient and kept our poise.”
Japan coach Gary Sato was pleased with the effort of his charges despite the loss.
“It was a hard-fought match,” he noted. “We made adjustments offensively and defensively after watching the film from yesterday’s match.”
Sato said the evaluation was reflected in Japan’s improved performance.
“We formulated a plan on how to utilize our attackers,” he said. “Our hitters were successful with these tactics at times.”
Canada established a 6-3 lead in the final set and Japan took a timeout.
A reception error by libero Takeshi Nagano gave Canada a 12-7 margin.
Canada completed the triumph 15-7 on a block by Verhoeff.
Canada beat Japan in four sets on Saturday in the opener of the series.
“Many of our players said it was one of our toughest matches in a long time,” commented Canada captain Frederic Winters. “They played really good defense today. They didn’t play like that yesterday.”
Winters was thrilled with his team’s showing and recent fine play.
“We have won six matches in a row and are going to Argentina. It feels great,” he said. “We are not as technically skilled as some European teams, but we battled through today.”
Captain Kota Yamamura regretted that Japan could not hold on for a victory.
“It’s too bad we could not win today,” he said. “We put up a better challenge than yesterday. We need to improve our serve and ability to deal with blocks.”
The 24th FIVB World League, which offers $5.7 million in prize money, features 18 teams split into three pools of six that compete in a five-round, 10-match format.
The top two teams from Group A and B advance to the six-team finals, along with host Argentina.
Brazil and Bulgaria are currently atop Group A, while Italy and Russia lead Group B.