RIO DE JANEIRO – Japan was outclassed by the United States in a straight-sets defeat, seeing its quest for a second consecutive Olympic medal end in the quarterfinals of the women’s volleyball tournament at the Rio Olympics on Tuesday.
Masayoshi Manabe’s squad, which finished in a tie for -fifth place, was trying to improve on a bronze-medal finish at the London Games in 2012, but fell 25-16, 25-23, 25-22 against the world No. 1 U.S. team, despite having the backing of a boisterous crowd at the Maracanazinho arena.
“This was the first time I competed in an Olympics as captain and I am disappointed that we weren’t able to reach our goal. But I am thankful to my staff and family for all their support,” said 29-year-old team captain Saori Kimura, who also competed in London, at the 2008 Beijing Games, and in Athens in 2004.
“I have to say the major difference with this Olympics and four years ago is players are much taller now and the Japanese players who are much shorter really struggle against them,” Manabe said.
Japan got off on the wrong foot, committing a string of errors in the first set as the U.S. took control. Yuki Ishii, who had 13 points matching teammate Miyu Nagaoka, upped her game in the second to make it a close contest, but the drive was short-lived.
In the third set, Japan overcame a 20-13 deficit, going on a 7-0 run with some strong defensive play to tie it 20-all. But after Kimura’s spike tied the game again at 21-21, Kimberly Hill, who led her team with 15 points, got the kill as the U.S. secured the first match point.
Kimura hit a spike to come within two at 24-22, but Foluke Akinradewo’s final spike ended it in 1 hour, 12 minutes.
“I knew that if we lost, this would be it for us. So I really tried my very best in the end,” Kimura said, adding this will almost certainly be her last Olympics.
The U.S., which will next face Serbia, reached the semifinals for the third consecutive Olympics. The team took the silver in Beijing and London.
“It’s frustrating playing against a great defensive team like Japan. It takes four or five swings sometimes for us to put the ball down,” said U.S. captain Christa Harmotto Dietzen.
“That’s a tribute to their program, but in general I think we handled ourselves pretty well.”
Serbia beat Russia 25-9, 25-22, 25-21, while the Netherlands downed South Korea 25-19, 25-14, 23-25, 25-20, to also advance to the semis.
China eliminated host nation Brazil, winning 15-25, 25-23, 25-22, 22-25, 15-13 to advance to the final four.