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Russia spikers dominate Japan in FIVB Men’s Grand Champions Cup

Fivb, Kyodo

Coming off a disappointing loss against the Italians on the opening day of the 2013 FIVB Men’s Grand Champions Cup, Russia looked for a better effort against host Japan.

Historically, Russia has dominated head-to-head volleyball competition with Japan, winning 56 of 66 total contests. This match was no different, as the Russians made short work of the host Japan team, winning 25-16, 25-17, 25-18 at Kyoto Prefectural Gymnasium.

Russia was led by Dmitriy Ilinykh who scored 12 points in the victory, including three blocks. He was supported by Alexey Spiridonov with 10, who won the player of the match award. Leading all scorers was Japan’s Kunihiro Shimizu, who scored 14 for Japan. Russia out-blocked the host team 15-5.

“Team Japan’s defense is very good, so we wanted to work on our attack, and I think it was effective today,” Russia coach Andrey Voronkov said. “We wanted to work on our block, and today it was good. The atmosphere was tough here in Kyoto gymnasium, but our performance was good. … Today’s match was important for us. We lost yesterday and wanted to recover from that game. We wanted to give our best performance so we could build our confidence moving forward from today.”

Russia didn’t give an inch to Japan to start this match, with no Japanese player scoring a point until Kazuyoshi Yokota hit a hard spike down center to make it 11-4. Russian attackers Spiridonov, Dmitriy Muserskiy, and Maxim Mikhaylov were a handful for the Japan defense, and the home team just couldn’t come up with an answer. Kazuyoshi Yokota tried a heated attack of his own, but Russia defended it well and Spiridonov fired it back just as quick to go ahead 21-12. The visitors cruise from there to take the first set 25-16.

Japan managed to stay a little closer to Russia in the second set, although Russia big man Muserskiy did his best to spoil its efforts, delivering a blistering jump serve for an ace to make it 9-4. The Russian attack was frustrated momentarily mid-set by Yoshihiko Matsumoto and Shimizu, who put consecutive block stuffs on Ilinykh for scores to make it 15-10. From there Japan did find some rhythm, but the deficit was too big. A hard Spiridonov spike nearly knocked over Yuta Yoneyama, making it 23-16, a point symbolic of the punishment Japan was taking in the match. Mikhaylov underscored the message with a vicious cross-court kill to take the set 25-17.

Said Japan outside hitter Tatsuya Fukuzawa: “Russia is strong serving and blocking, and we just didn’t have good service reception today, and our attack was very slow. So they had time to prepare their block and we got shut out. We’ll try to serve receive better and get better tempo. We need to work on that for next time.”

Japan coach Gary Sato said his team needed a better performance to defeat Russia.

“Our team played very hard, and we tried to prepare as best we could in practice,” Sato said. “But it’s difficult to replicate such a big block, the angles of their spike, as well as the speed of their serve. For practice we need to train harder and smarter. But there’s no time for that, and we need to prepare for Brazil.

“We noticed there are some weaknesses in their serve reception based on film and statistical analysis. So whether it’s a float server serving to certain areas, or a jump server serving to certain areas, that’s what we were hoping to accomplish. And when we were able to do that, it worked out well…”

Also Wednesday, Olympic silver medalist Brazil downed the United States 31-29, 25-23, 25-23 to make it two wins out of two, while Iran picked up its first win by beating Olympic bronze medalist Italy (1-1) 26-24, 16-25, 25-23, 23-25, 15-12.

The tournament moves to Tokyo for the third round of matches on Friday.