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Japan defeats China, improves to 3-0 in FIVB World Grand Prix Finals

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

Japan remained unbeaten on the third day of play in the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals with a straight sets (25-21, 25-17, 25-21) victory over China at Ariake Colosseum on Friday night

The tandem of Saori Kimura and Miyu Nagaoka led the charge for Japan with 16 points each in the win.

Yuki Ishii chipped in with 11 points in Japan’s third straight triumph in the competition.

One night after dismantling Turkey in straight sets, Japan picked up where it left off with another dominant performance. Japan excelled once again on defense, displaying fine blocking and reception, as well as some pinpoint serving.

Zeng Chunlei had 16 points for China, which is missing some key players due to injury, in the loss.

The victory puts Japan on a collision course with defending champion Brazil for the title. The teams will face off on Sunday night.

Japan plays next against winless Belgium on Saturday night.

“China has a very high block, but our reception was good and our attackers were able to hit well between their blocks, and from the second half of the match our serves were very effective,” said Japan coach Masayoshi Manabe. “I’ve been trying to improve our serving for several years. It’s not about how many we practice, it’s about whether or not you can hit a good serve under pressure. That’s what I keep telling the players.”

“We got better in the middle of the match and were able to win,” Nagaoka commented. “We’ve got two more games to go, so I hope we can continue like this. I just tried to play as normal today. Looking at my percentages, I’m surprised they were higher than usual. My teammates were able to receive well and that’s one of the reasons why I was able to make good spikes.”

In earlier action, Brazil routed Belgium in straight sets (25-10, 25-12, 25-12) to win its second straight match.

Thaisa Menezes was the high scorer for the South Americans with 13 points as they overwhelmed their European opponents.

Lise Van Hecke tallied nine points for Belgium in the loss.

Brazil is now 2-1, while Belgium fell to 0-3.

Russia outlasted Turkey in five sets (25-22, 26-24, 13-25, 27-25, 15-12) in an entertaining match to start the day.

Coming off Thursday night’s loss to Japan, Turkey looked liked like it might go down in straight sets, only to battle back and lose in an intense fifth set.

Russia was led by Tatiana Kosheleva’s 26 points in the win.

Gozde Sonsirma posted a match-high 29 points in the loss for Turkey.

The result lifted Russia to a 2-1 record, while Turkey slipped to 1-2.

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