LONDON – Japan’s women improved to 2-1 on Wednesday when they defeated the Dominican Republic 25-20, 25-19, 25-23 in their Group A volleyball match at the London Olympics.
Japan was paced by veterans Yukiko Ebata, who scored 14 points, and Saori Kimura, who tallied 13.
“We played Japanese-style volleyball,” Kimura said. Our play from both the center and sides was well coordinated.”
Bethania de la Cruz, who set a single-game scoring record with 42 points against Germany last year in Okayama, managed just 15 against Japan, while teammate Prisilla Altagracia Rivera had 16.
While Japan could not silence the Dominicans’ big guns, coach Masayoshi Manabe’s team was able to limit the damage with solid defending.
“During final qualifying, we were frequently done in by our service game and service returns,” Manabe said. “But in both areas we have been extremely solid. We are playing a fast, varied game.”
The straight-sets victory earned Japan three points, giving it six points from three games. Russia leads the group with nine points from three games after a 25-7, 25-14, 25-15 win over Algeria. The win clinched Russia a spot in the quarterfinals.
In the late match Wednesday, South Korea, led by Kim Yeon Koung’s match-high 21 points, upset the Brazilians in three straight sets, dropping them to 1-2 in the preliminary round in Group B.
The top four teams in each of the two six-team groups will advance to the quarterfinal round.
U.S. remains unbeaten
Destinee Hooker scored 22 points and the U.S. women’s team improved to 3-0 with a three-set preliminary round victory over China at the London Olympics on Wednesday.
Megan Hodge added 18 points for the top-ranked U.S. team in the 26-24, 25-16, 31-29 win. Zeng Chunlei scored 10 points, including two aces, for No. 3 China, which fell to 2-1 in the preliminary round.
It was the United States’ eighth straight victory over China in international competition. The team’s last loss came at the 2007 World Grand Prix.
The U.S. women are among the favorites to medal in London. The team has never won an Olympic gold medal in indoor volleyball.
They brought the silver home from Beijing after falling in the final to Brazil. In an early-round rematch in London, the U.S. came away with a 3-1 victory over No. 2-ranked Brazil.
Hugh McCutcheon, who led the American men to the gold medal in Beijing before shifting to the women’s team, led the U.S. to the top spot in the international rankings late last year to end Brazil’s four-year run at No. 1.
Logan Tom’s ace in the first set made it 12-10 and it appeared the U.S. was making a move, but China pulled in front 19-18 on Wei Qiuyue’s kill. Tom’s misplayed dig gave China a short-lived 23-20 advantage.
Hooker’s block and a pair of spikes from Hodge made it 16-13 and the U.S. pulled away in the second set.
Jinling Chu’s ace pulled China in front 19-18 in the hard-fought third set, which was won when China could not return another kill by Hodge. Wei Qiuyue, who tried to block Hodge, raised her hands to her face and had to be consoled by her teammates as the U.S. celebrated.
“Megan came off the bench and provided us some great offense in the second and third sets,” McCutcheon said. “We feel very comfortable with her out there taking those big swings with the set on the line or the match on the line.”
Italy downed Britain 27-25, 25-12, 25-12 in a Group A match.
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