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France spikers prevail against Japan in World League

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

France completed a sweep of Japan with a four-set (25-16, 19-25, 27-25, 25-18) victory in their FIVB World League Pool D match on Sunday afternoon at Shimadzu Arena.

The win improved France’s record to 9-1 on the season, while Japan dropped to 0-10. France’s lone loss came last week in its first match against Germany.

Antonin Rouzier powered the French attack with a match-high 24 points.. Kevin Tillie added 17 in the win.

Kunihiro Shimizu led Japan in the loss with 22 points, while Yu Koshikawa chipped in with 18.

After beating Japan in straight sets on Saturday, France prevailed again with power on offense and good blocking on defense.

Japan appeared on the way to another straight-sets defeat, but came to life in the second set with inspired play that caused France to make nine errors.

The third set was tight all the way, with Japan unable to capitalize on a set point.

France stormed back in the final set to complete the triumph.

France coach Laurent Tillie recognized his team was not at its best on this day.

“We are happy to win both matches. It was tough for us to pass today,” he stated. “Our reception was not that good. We did not function well in that area.”

Tillie said Japan’s speed made it challenging for his players.

“Japan has a quick game which we are not used to,” he noted. “We don’t see this kind of team in Europe.”

Japan coach Masashi Nambu was upbeat despite the defeat.

“We wanted to focus on our serves today,” he commented. “Koshikawa and Shimizu did a good job on them. They were very aggressive. I was pleased with our play in the second and third sets.”

“It was a difficult match. We were very tired physically and still had jet lag,” said France captain Benjamin Toniutti. “We are happy to get the six points. We will now concentrate on our matches against Argentina next week.”

Japan captain Yu Koshikawa acknowledged that taking the second set was significant for he and his teammates.

“We were happy to win the second set. That gave our team a positive mood,” he said. “We did well in the third set even though we did not win it.”

France took a 5-3 lead in the first set after Japan’s Dai Tezuka fired a spike long. Kevin Tillie leaped high to connect with a spike and France led 8-3 at the first technical timeout.

A mishit spike by Tillie made it 9-6. Shimizu smashed a spike and it was 10-7 for France. Koshikawa fired a serve into the net and it was 12-8. A Tezuka spike made it 13-10. Rouzier uncorked a huge spike off a combination play for 14-10. Tezuka sent a serve long for 15-11. A block by Nicolas Le Goff put France up 16-11 at the second TTO.

A Le Goff block put France up by six points at 18-12 and Japan called a timeout. Le Goff spiked to make it 20-13. Takashi Dekita’s spike took it to 22-16. Samuele Tuia’s successful attack put France within two points of the set at 23-16. Tillie gave France the set 25-16 with a spike.

Japan moved out to a 6-4 lead in the second set on a fine spike by Koshikawa down the line. A Koshikawa block gave Japan a three-point lead at 7-4 and France took a timeout. Japan was up 8-4 at the first TTO after France sent a spike long.

Benjamin Toniutti’s spike made it 8-6. Hideomi Fukatsu made a nifty dink for 9-6. Shimizu spiked and it was 10-6 for Japan. Rouzier delivered a tricky dink to make it 12-9. A reception error by Japan saw France pull within one at 12-11. A Shimizu spike took it to 15-12 for Japan. Another Shimizu spike gave Japan a 16-13 advantage at the second TTO.

Rouzier served into the net and Japan led 17-15. A Franck Lafitte spike made it 19-17 for Japan. Eto poked a quick spike and it was 20-17. Tillie’s spike took it to 21-18. Tillie sent a spike long and Japan was up 23-18. A Shimizu spike gave Japan set point at 24-19. A return error by France gave Japan the set 25-19.

Earvin Ngapeth served into the net and Japan took a 5-3 lead in the third set. Tille moved France within one at 6-5 with a spike. Koshikawa made a return error and the score was even at 7-7. France then moved ahead 8-7 at the first TTO on a spike by Tillie.

Ngapeth’s spike made it 10-8. Tille soared for a spike and it was 12-10. Japan tied it 12-12 on a Shimizu spike. Rouzier put France back ahead 13-12 with a spike. Ngapeth ended a long rally with a spike and France led 16-14 at the second TTO.

Koshikawa’s spike took it to 16-15. Koshikawa sent a serve long and it was 18-16 for France. Lafitte followed with a service ace and France went ahead by three at 19-16. A block by Naoya Shiraiwa moved Japan within on at 20-19. Koshikawa ripped another spike to keep Japan close at 21-20. Tillie then could not handle a Shiraiwa serve and it was even at 21-21. Rouzier made it 22-21 with a huge spike. Koshikawa tied it again at 22-22 with a spike. Japan then moved back ahead 23-22 on a Koshikawa spike and France called a timeout.

Japan had set point at 24-23, but Rouzier’s spike leveled the count again. Koshikawa fired a spike wide and gave France set point at 25-24. Koshikawa tied it 25-25 with a spike, but then served into the net and France had another set point at 26-25. Le Goff then blocked a Japan spike and France grabbed the set 27-25.

A Lafitte block put France up 5-4 in the fourth set. Koshikawa made it 6-5 for Japan on a spike off a long pass from Shimizu. Ngapeth’s spike put France up 7-6. Another Lafitte block sent France into the first TTO with an 8-6 edge.

A Tillie spike made it 10-8 for France. Trailing 12-8, Japan took a timeout. Koshikawa served into the net and it was 13-9. A tricky dink by Shiraiwa saw France up 13-10. Le Goff’s service ace gave France a five-point margin at 15-10. Japan then committed a return error and France was up six at 16-10 at the second TTO.

A spike by Ngapeth took it to 18-12. Shunsuke Chijiki delivered a service ace to pull Japan within five at 19-14. It was 20-15 after a quick spike by Koshikawa. Another spike by Ngapeth made it 21-15 as France drove for the finish line. A block by Toniutti made it 23-17. Tille then gave France match point at 24-17 with a spike. Le Goff gave France the win 25-18 with a final spike.

Japan will close out World League play with a pair of matches next weekend against Germany in Koshigaya, Saitama Prefecture.