/

Brazil denies Japan World Grand Prix title

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

Brazil retained its title with a three-set (25-15, 25-18, 27-25) victory over Japan on the final day of play in the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals at Ariake Colosseum on Sunday night.

Brazil, which won its record 10th World Grand Prix title, was sparked by Sheilla Castro who posted a match-high 16 points.

Fabiana Claudino contributed 10 points for Brazil with several nice spikes and blocks.

Yuki Ishii took high-point honors for Japan with 10. Star Saori Kimura added nine in the loss.

Japan struggled from the outset, making several errors and had to settle for the silver medal. Japan had nearly twice as many errors (29-15) as Brazil in the contest.

Miyu Nagaoka and Risa Shinnabe, who have both played well this week, had poor performances in particular, which made Japan’s task that much tougher.

Brazil played well, but Japan was clearly off its game. Japan was also without key player Saori Sakoda who is sidelined due to injury.

“Today we made too many mistakes,” said Japan coach Masayoshi Manabe.  “Our players were under a lot of pressure due to the height of Brazil’s spikes and blocks. If we want to become a top team in the world, we have to learn to react to their blocks and must improve our individual skills.”

Japan’s was vying for its first title in a major international event since winning the gold at the 1977 Women’s World Cup.

This is the first time Japan has medaled in the World Grand Prix. Its previous best finish was fourth place, which it accomplished three times (1994, 1997, 2013).

“Today we faced Brazil, the No. 1 team in the world, and they made me realize that there are many things we need to improve if we want to catch up with them,” commented Kimura. “We learned a lot today. They did their homework and were superior to us in all aspects.”

Kimura is already looking ahead to future battles.

“We need to think about how we can gain points and we need more combinations in attack,” she stated. “We need to use the full width of the court for our back attack. It’s good that we got the silver medal, but our goal was the gold medal.”

Japan entered the match with Brazil having won 12 straight sets. After dropping the first set in its opener against Russia on Wednesday, Japan reeled off three straight sets to take that contest, and followed with straight-sets victories over Turkey, China and Belgium.

In earlier action, Russia stormed back from two sets down to claim the bronze medal in a five-set (2-25, 14-25, 25-22, 25-20, 15-13) thriller.

China appeared to be in total control after taking the second set by more than 10 points, with the Russian players looking fatigued. However, as if they had flipped a switch, the Russians sprung to life in the third set with some fine team play and good defense.

The final set was tense all the way, with Russia finally closing out the contest on its second match point.

Tatiana Kosheleva paced Russia with a match-high 28 points. Alexandra Pasynkova added 15 in the win.

Liu Xiaotong had 17 points in the loss for China.

Turkey downed Belgium in four sets (24-26, 25-21, 25-23, 25-20) to end its three-match losing streak in a consolation match.

Neriman Ozsoy led Turkey with a match-high 32 points.

Lise Van Hecke recorded 21 points for Belgium in the loss.

The result left Turkey with a 2-3 mark, while Belgium finished winless at 0-5.