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Japan rallies past Russia at World Grand Prix Finals

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

Japan came from behind to defeat Russia in four sets (22-25, 25-20, 25-21, 25-17) on the first day of play in the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals at Ariake Colosseum on Wednesday night.

Star Saori Kimura sparked Japan with a team-high 17 points in the victory, while Risa Shinnabe chipped in with 14.

Russia was led by Tatiana Kosheleva’s match-high 23 points.

Japan, ranked third in the world, seemed to be in control of the opening set, only to be overtaken late.

The hosts reasserted themselves in the second set, before a bizarre third set played out. Japan held a nine-point lead at 12-3 in the third, then blew it as Russia ran off 11 straight points. Japan fought back to prevail, however, with strong blocking and good teamwork.

The momentum from the third set carried over to the fourth, as Japan built an early advantage and was never threatened.

“I’m very glad to win the first game of this World Grand Prix,” said Japan coach Masayoshi Manabe. “Today we concentrated on receiving and tried to attack down the middle. We had a bit of a hard time in the first set, but our substitutes came on and played very well.”

Japan will take on Turkey on Thursday evening.

The six-team, round-robin tournament features three games each day and runs through Sunday. Japan will play in the night match each day.

In earlier action, defending champion Brazil came from two sets down to force a fifth set against Turkey but ended up losing. Turkey prevailed 25-18, 25-23, 21-25, 19-25, 15-12 in a spirited battle.

Gozde Sonsirma paced Turkey in the win with a match-high 23 points.

Brazil is ranked No. 1 in the world and has won the World Grand Prix a record nine times.

Tandara Caixeta notched 20 for Brazil in the loss.

China defeated Belgium in four sets (25-19, 25-27, 25-18, 25-15) in the first match of the day. The Chinese were missing four players due to injury, but still prevailed.

Zeng Chunlei led China with 19 points in the triumph.

Belgium’s Helene Rousseaux was impressive in defeat, scoring a match-high 23 points.