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Volleyball: China edge Japan in 3-2 thriller to set up Brazil showdown

China celebrate a dramatic 3-2 win over Japan in front of a packed crowd at Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center. Photos: FIVB.

China captain Hui Ruoqi (#12) leads the celebrations after a dramatic 3-2 win over Japan in front of a packed crowd at Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center. Photos: FIVB.

August 31, 2013: China had to dig deep to edge hosts Japan 3-2 (25-16, 18-25, 26-24, 21-25, 15-13) in front of a raucous crowd and set up a winner-takes-all decider against Brazil on the final day of the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals in Sapporo.

 

Zhu Ting, 18, was again China’s top scorer, raining down 33 points.

Zhu Ting, 18, was again China’s top scorer, with 33 points.

Japan put in a stunning defensive effort and twice drew level in sets, as the Asian giants went head to head in a memorable encounter at Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center.

 

Zhu Ting, 18, led the China charge for the second straight game, scoring 33 points, more than double that of captain Hui Ruoqi (15) and middle blocker Xu Yunli (14), while Japan’s Yukiko Ebata was the match’s top scorer with 36, her and Zhu engaging in several mini-battles.

 

It was China’s fourth straight win – and second five-setter – in the Finals and their 13th successive win in this year’s competition.

 

The 1.96-metre Thaisa Menezes (#6), watched by Sheilla Castro, spikes in Brazil’s 3-0 win over Serbia.

The 1.96-metre Thaisa Menezes (#6), watched by Sheilla Castro, spikes in Brazil’s 3-0 win over Serbia.

Brazil also maintained their perfect record in Sapporo by earlier beating Serbia 3-0 (27-25, 25-21, 25-22) in three tight games.

 

Sheilla Castro made her first major impact of the competition, leading the scoring for the Olympic champions with 19 points.

 

She was backed by the in-form trio of 19-year-old Gabriela Guimaraes (14), outside hitter Fernanda Garay (13) and 1.96-metre middle blocker Thaisa Menezes (10).

 

In Saturday’s first game, Italy won their first match in Sapporo and condemned the USA to a fourth successive defeat, as the blues twice came from behind to win 3-2 (19-25, 25-22, 23-25, 25-18, 16-14).

 

Italy won their first match in the Finals, edging USA 16-14 in the fifth set.

Valentina Diouf (top left) and Italy enjoy their first win in the Finals, edging USA 16-14 in the fifth set.

Valentina Diouf, the 2.02-metre 20-year-old, was again Italy’s top scorer, with 31 points, while Carolina Costagrande racked up 18.

 

The evening’s final clash was equally dramatic, as China had to overcome an inspired performance by the hosts to record their 19th win over Japan in 20 World Grand Prix meetings.

 

China coach Jenny Lang Ping said: “We prepared for a game like this. Japan are a great team, very well organized, fast and have great ball control. They have many good things we don’t have,” she said.

 

“I told my players Japan are a great team, it’s their home court and there will be a lot of noise. I said, ‘You must concentrate on the game.’ I want to learn from this game. We need to learn many things from Japan. It was a great performance from all the fans and I want to thank the fans for cheering all the athletes.”

 

Zhu scored 10 points in the first set as China comfortably won the opener, but Japan raised their game in the second set, taking a 20-14 lead before closing out 25-18.

 

It was tight at the start of the third set, the teams even at 7-7, but Japan started making errors and China led 16-10. Japan rallied to 19-16 and drew level at 22-22.

 

At 23-22 to China, successive blasts by captain Saori Kimura and Ebata brought setpoint for Japan, but Zhu evened the scores. Yang Junjing took advantage of poor Japan defending and a long shot by Ebata put China 2-1 up.

 

The intensity continued in the fourth set as the two sides swapped early leads. The teams were level at 17-17 before Japan moved into a 20-18 lead on the back of a rocket by Kimura and a well placed shot by Ebata, eventually winning 25-21.

 

Japanese players pile up in desperate defence.

Japanese players pile up in desperate defence.

In the tiebreak, Lang called her team off at 3-0 down and her team talk worked, China clawing back to 3-3. At 8-8, Japan made their third service error of the set and Ebata missed the target, before a block by Xu on Risa Shinnabe and a long shot by Ebata made it 13-9.

 

Big hits from Kimura and Ebata kept Japan alive before a well judged tipover from Hui brought matchpoint at 14-11. Ebata saved two more matchpoints, but was then blocked and China celebrated a dramatic win.

 

Japan had the advantage in blocking points 10-9 and in service points 8-7, but made 23 errors to China’s 15.

 

Brazil have 12 points and China have 10 after both teams won their first four games and are ahead of Serbia (six points), who have two wins, Japan (four) and Italy (three), who have one win each, and winless USA (one).

Haruka Miyashita embodies Japan's stunning defensive performance against China.

Haruka Miyashita embodies Japan’s courageous defensive performance against China.

2013 FIVB World Grand Prix Finals, Sapporo, Japan (local start times)

 

Wednesday, August 28 (13:30): Serbia 1-3 China

Wednesday, August 28 (15:30): Brazil 3-0 USA

Wednesday, August 28 (19:10): Japan 3-0 Italy

 

Thursday, August 29 (13:30): USA 1-3 Serbia

Thursday, August 29 (15:30): Italy 2-3 China

Thursday, August 29 (19:10): Japan 0-3 Brazil

 

Friday, August 30 (13:30): China 3-0 USA

Friday, August 30 (15:30): Brazil 3-0 Italy

Friday, August 30 (19:10): Serbia 3-0 Japan

 

Saturday, August 31 (13:30): Italy 3-2 USA

Saturday, August 31 (15:30): Brazil 3-0 Serbia

Saturday, August 31 (19:10): Japan 2-3 China

 

Sunday, September 1 (13:30): Serbia v Italy

Sunday, September 1 (15:30): China v Brazil

Sunday, September 1 (19:10): USA v Japan

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