Sarina Koga continued to make a statement as Japan’s rising star, scoring 19 points including 15 on spikes to lead Japan to a 25-15, 25-12, 25-16 triumph over Cuba on Monday in the FIVB Women’s World Cup.

Playing before a crowd of 12,000 at Yoyogi National Gymnasium, the Japanese put Sunday’s shocking loss to Russia behind them and rebuilt their offensive rhythm.

“I was worried about the negative affect of the loss to Russia, but the players focused on today’s match well,” Japan coach Masayoshi Manabe said. “But we have still issues to work on. Improving the attack from the middle is one of them.”

Japan turned to younger players against struggling Cuba (1-2), starting Haruka Miyashita and Mami Uchiseto for the first time in this tournament. Ace attacker Saori Kimura started on the bench and played only sparingly.

Miyashita put in a fine setting performance and distributed well-controlled passes to Koga and Miyu Nagaoka, who had 10 spiking points.

Nineteen-year-old wing spiker Koga made the best of her height, which reaches 305 cm at the spiking point, to hit her angled shots.

“Miyashita gave me tosses with soft touches,” Koga said. “During this tournament, I have been able to see the opponents’ blocks well when hitting the ball. I make mistakes, but I feel I’m improving every day with help of my teammates.”

Sulian Matienzo scored 10 points with speedy and high-angled spikes and Alena Rojas showed quick movement to avoid Japan’s blocking for Cuba, which failed to establish its rhythm due to mistakes on serve and receiving.

In other matches on Monday, Tatiana Kosheleva scored 12 points on spikes to help make Russia (3-0) the only undefeated team after a straight-sets victory (25-16, 25-21, 25-21) over winless Kenya (0-3). The Dominican Republic (2-1) defeated Argentina (1-2) 3-1 (25-21, 25-22, 19-25, 25-15).

In Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, Karsta Lowe and Kimberly Hill scored a combined 18 points as the United States (2-1) defeated China 3-0 (25-23, 25-27, 25-23) to hand its opponent its first loss of the tournament. South Korea (2-1) routed Algeria (0-3) 3-0 (25-8, 25-9, 25-19) while Serbia (2-1) needed only 64 minutes to beat Peru (1-2) 3-0 (25-10, 25-17, 25-10).

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