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France makes short work of Japan in World League match

by Jack Gallagher

Staff writer

France scored a clinical three-set (25-23, 25-18, 25-16) victory over Japan in the fifth round of World League play on Saturday afternoon at Shimadzu Arena.

France’s record rose to 8-1 with the win, while Japan fell to 0-9 with the defeat.

The French were paced by Antonin Rouzier who had a match-high 18 points. Nicolas Marechal contributed nine.

Kunihiro Shimizu led Japan with 14 points in the loss, while Yu Koshikawa had eight.

It was a comprehensive showing by France, which excelled in all facets of the game, especially blocking. The French power and experience proved decisive on this day.

Japan put on a far more spirited showing in the defeat than it did last week when it was swept by Argentina, but struggled with reception and missed the presence of injured attacker Tatsuya Fukuzawa.

“Japan played much better today,” said France coach Laurent Tillie. “I was happy we could win in straight sets. I was pleased to see the variety of offense we displayed in this victory.”

Tillie said Japan’s tactics provided a challenge for his squad.

“Japan confused us a bit with their block,” he stated. “We changed the formation as a result of this in the third set. Their setter was also quick today.”

Japan coach Masashi Nambu bemoaned his team’s service struggles.

“We made too many service mistakes at key moments,” he noted. “Serves are very important. We have to improve our serves to rise on the global level.”

Nambu acknowledges that his charges have much to work on going forward, but thinks their outlook is changing for the better.

“If our reception was good we would have had a better chance. We need to focus on that,” he analyzed. “Technique is difficult to improve quickly, but we can change the mental aspect and mood of the team right away.”

Franck Lafitte spotted France to a 6-4 lead with a soaring spike in the opening set. France led 8-4 at the first technical timeout.

Takashi Dekita pulled Japan within three points at 11-8 with a fine spike off a combination play. Shimizu’s spike made it 14-11. Japan exhibited strong defense in the early going, keeping several tough balls in play. France was up 16-12 at the second TTO.

Koshikawa hammered a powerful service ace for 16-14. Japan pulled within one at 17-16 on a Shimizu spike. Koshikawa ended a lengthy rally with a spike and it was 19-18 for France. Another Koshikawa blast leveled the score at 19-19. Shimizu fired a spike wide and France pulled back ahead at 22-20. Japan then called a timeout. Koshikawa sent a spike out and France was within two points of the set at 23-20. Shimizu ripped a spike for 23-21. Koshikawa’s block at the net made it 23-22. Lafitte’s spike gave France set point at 24-22. Hideoki Eto spike for 24-23. Koshikawa then sent a serve long and France took the set 25-23.

France moved out to an 8-4 lead at the first TTO in the second set.

Benjamin Toniutti sent a serve long and it was 9-7 for France. It was 11-8 for France after a net violation by Japan. A service ace by Shunsuke Chijiki made it 12-10. Marechal connected on a spike and France was up 14-11. France had a four-point margin at the second TTO.

Eto sent a serve into the net and it was 17-13. Kevin Tillie’s block made it 18-13 and France started to pull away. A dink by Lafitte put the French up seven at 20-13. A spike by Dai Tezuka took the count to 21-15. Nicolas Le Goff leaped high for a spike and France was two points from the set at 23-16. France took the set on a laser service ace from Marechal.

France established a 6-3 lead in the third set following a Japan return error. Marechal’s spike made it 7-3. Shimizu hit an off-balance spike for 7-4. Le Goff’s spike sent France into the first TTO with an 8-4 advantage.

France sent a spike long and Japan was within one at 9-8. Tillie followed with a spike for 10-8. Japan misplayed a reception and Rouzier capitalized by uncorking another spiike for 13-8. A Tillie spike took it to 14-9. Chikiji sent a serve long for 15-10. Shimizu missed a spike try and France was on top 16-10 at the second TTO.

A net violation by Japan made it 18-12. Koshikawa’s spike took the score to 19-13. Rouzier blasted another spike and it was 20-13 as France drove for the finish line. Marechal sent a spike down the middle and it was match point at 24-14. France concluded matters with a final spike by Rouzier.