Japan’s hopes of sending a men’s volleyball team to the Rio Games look to be slipping away as on Tuesday at the Olympic qualification tournament, Poland sent Masashi Nambu’s men to their second consecutive straight-sets loss.
Poland, the reigning world champions ranked No. 2 in the world, was able to dominate most facets of the game as it stayed unbeaten at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, winning 25-22, 25-26, 25-23.
The hosts’ loss drops them to a 1-2 record, behind the team’s rivals for Asia’s only guaranteed Rio 2016 slot — China (2-1) and Iran (2-1), who sit tied for second, with all teams having four to play.
“We don’t know what can happen in the future, so we have to play each game as it comes,” said Yuki Ishikawa, who with 17 points was one of Japan’s lone bright spots.
“We can’t afford to lose any more so we will just play one by one and then we might begin to see some hope.”
Nambu was philosophical about the performance, despite the lop-sided scoreline.
“Of course ranking-wise they are higher than us, so we knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Nambu said. “We had to give our best in all aspects so that we would have some hope.
“We saw today we were able to compete on the same footing in some aspects and then in others not so much.”
After finding itself in a deep hole against France in its most recent outing, Poland was in no mood to fall behind early and Japan did nothing to help its own cause with some ineffective blocking in the first set.
By the end of the first, which Poland won 25-22, Japan played relatively effectively on spike and serve, but had yet to record a point off a block, whereas Poland ended the first stanza with five block points — twin towers Bartosz Kurek and Marcin Mozdzonek the best of Poland’s front line.
Japan’s sideout got on track to start the second, coinciding with Nambu inserting Masahiro Yanagida from the bench, and it allowed the home side to build a lead. But the defensive issues quickly resurfaced and Poland was able to refocus its own side-out play to overhaul the home team and close out the set comfortably 25-22.
Japan kept the third set close, and despite fending off one match point, never looked very likely to extend the match, losing 25-23.
Earlier, China, backing up from a win over Japan on Sunday, was much too good for Venezuela, winning in straight sets (25-16, 25-18, 25-15).
After a first up 3-1 loss to France, China has not yet lost another set at the tournament, and paced by Dai Qinghao and his 17 points on 68 percent hitting as well as solid team blocking, the team was untroubled in handing Venezuela its third loss.
Although coming into the game unbeaten, Iran struggled against France from the start and despite rallying, could not push the game into a fourth set, losing 25-18, 25-20, 25-22.
Antonin Rouzier led the scoring for France, logging 18 points on an excellent spike ratio (16-for-24).
Canada got its first win of the tournament in the day’s first match, downing Australia in five sets (25-19, 24-26, 20-25, 29-27, 15-11).
Canada was led by its three weapons — John Perrin (25 points), Nicholas Hoag (23) and Gavin Schmitt (23) — while Australia’s Thomas Edgar logged a tournament single-match high 33 points on 31 spikes, one ace and a block.