LONDON – Japan’s women opened the Olympic volleyball tournament with a straight-sets victory over Algeria in Group A on Saturday.
Japan’s women, seeking their first medal since the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, defeated Algeria 25-15, 25-14, 25-7 at Earls Court in a 9:30 a.m. start. In its last three Olympic tournaments, in Atlanta, Athens and Beijing, Japan’s women lost their opener.
Saori Kimura adroitly read the Algerian defense to score 15 points, all on spikes to lead Japan in scoring. Saori Sakoda, who was recently promoted to the starting lineup, generated tremendous movement on her spikes from the first period en route to her 10-point total.
“I was told I was going to start yesterday around noon,” said Sakoda. “I went into the game intending to leave everything out there on the court.”
Although ranked fifth in the world, Japan barely qualified for London and coach Masayoshi Manabe’s team had proved vulnerable in its service returns, but the coach was pleased with the opening effort.
“We came prepared to compete with both our serve and returns,” Manabe said. “I’m extremely satisfied. In particular, our serves were outstanding.”
Although the Japan’s games at home are almost always played in prime time, the team prepared for their early-riser special during their recent training camp in Switzerland.
Also in Group A are the Dominican Republic, host Britain, Italy and Russia.
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