Japan fell to a 1-1 record at the men’s Olympic volleyball qualification tournament on Sunday with errors, particularly on service, and China’s stout central blocking proving too much for the hosts, who went down in straight sets (25-20, 25-22, 25-23).
Japan could not get any sort of foothold in the match, dropping each set in unfortunately similar fashion at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. Despite scoring more points on attack (44 to 35), Japan’s 23 errors — and China’s 14 points off blocks — left the home fans little to cheer.
“We made mistakes and let the opposition play good volleyball. When we were toiling, we tried to regain ground through our service, but today it didn’t function,” said Japan captain Kunihiro Shimizu who finished with a game-high 16 points.
“I think we allowed them to play the volleyball they wanted to play and they failed to come down to our level, and that’s why we lost.”
Japan coach Masashi Nambu said his team’s lack of ability to control the side out was a major failing on the night, while China’s blocking caused his squad fits.
“To be honest we couldn’t get side outs very well, that gave us really tough times tonight,” he said.
“In one-on-one situations, I think Chinese blocking caught us, at the end especially so.”
Nambu added: “I knew the Chinese were taller than (our first opponent) Venezuela, so even if the blocker is there alone and we try to penetrate we were aware they are wider and taller.
“So I told my guys to be mindful (of that) but once the match started the players tried to penetrate the blocking by crossing, I think they underestimated (China).”
Japan fell five points behind at a vital time late in the first set. Despite scrambling to close the gap, and drawing close, they could not string multiple points together and lost when Masahiro Yanagida served into the net on set point (25-20), one of his four faults on the night.
The hole got deeper for Japan after dropping the second set 25-22 — and with the head-to-head matchup vital as Asia’s top finisher at the tournament progresses to the Rio Games, things started to look increasingly dire.
As Japan’s players again failed to impose their will on the match in the third, it became obvious it was not going to be their day. The Japanese hitters proved unable to regularly pierce China’s front three and despite clawing to a one-point lead on a number of occasions, it was not to be as the hosts dropped the set and the match to their rival (25-23).
Dai Qinyao led China with 12 points.
Earlier, Poland stared down a two-set deficit and multiple match points in the third to mount a huge comeback against France.
France, which sits eight places behind Poland in the world rankings, got off to a flyer, taking the first two sets with reasonably little trouble, 25-23 and 25-13.
The third set was a much closer affair as desperation kicked in for the Poles, but they did not wilt in the face of two match points, pulling the set out 31-29.
That proved to be pivotal as Poland piled the pressure and France fizzled, dropping the fourth 25-17 and the closer 15-12.
Poland got an 18-point performance from Dawid Konarski but France will be asking how the game got away as three players — Antonin Rouzier (18), Earvin Ngapeth (19) and Kevin Tillie (15) — scored heavily throughout.
Iran handed Canada its second loss in as many matches in an epic five-setter that saw the reigning Asian Games champion pull back a two-set deficit (27-29, 19-25, 25-20, 25-21, 16-14).
Milad Ebadipour’s mitt was responsible for 26 of Iran’s 112 points, 25 coming on spikes, as he combined with fellow wing hitter Amir Ghafour, who finished with 18 points of his own.
Canada was led by a fine all-around showing from Gavin Schmitt, whose game-high 27 points included two blocks and three aces.
Australia broke its duck at the tournament, also coming from behind to take a 3-1 win over Venezuela (19-25, 25-20, 25-10, 25-19). Paced by a fine individual effort from Thomas Edgar (22 points), Australia was able to overcome Pinerua Kervin’s 19 points.