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Japan, Serbia Pick Up Speed in Tokyo

After some setbacks over the weekend, Serbia and hosts Japan seem to be back to speed at the FIVB Road to Paris Volleyball Qualifier in Tokyo. They both registered their third victories in Pool B on Wednesday, shutting out Finland and Türkiye, respectively, to stay closely behind undefeated leaders United States and Slovenia in the current pool standings and well in contention for the two tickets from Tokyo to Paris.

Inspired by the home fans, Japan showed no mercy for their opponents from Türkiye and hammered out a convincing 3-0 (25-15, 25-20, 25-19) straight-setter. In the first set, the Europeans held up through 7-7, but then the Asians went on a stunning 12-1 run on the serving turns of setter Masahiro Sekita and outside hitter Yuki Ishikawa and never looked back. The home team dominated throughout the second set to double their lead. The Turks tried fighting back in the third, opening up an early two-point lead, but the last time they were in front was at 12-11. After 16-16, Japan broke away with a five-point run, again with Sekita behind the serving line, and then built up nicely to a 25-19 close.

Except for the serving, which brought two aces to each of the teams, Japan outplayed Türkiye on all point counts: 42-31 in spike kills, 6-5 in kill blocks and 16-25 in unforced errors. Japanese opposite Yuji Nishida hit at a 57% success rate and raised three kill blocks towards the match high of 15 points. Captain Yuki Ishikawa added another 14 points, including one ace and one block. Outside Ran Takahashi also reached the double digits with 11 points. Opposite Kaan Gurbuz and outside Mirza Lagumdzija led Türkiye with 12 points apiece.

Serbia handed Finland their fourth defeat in the pool, despite another good performance from the northern Europeans. Registering a 67% success rate in offence, Serbian star opposite Aleksandar Atanasijevic contributed 17 points, including two blocks and an ace, towards a 3-0 (25-21, 25-22, 25-22) shutout, while his Finnish counterpart Joonas Jokela produced a match-high 19 points, including three aces and two blocks.

The southern Europeans stand third in the table on a 3-1 win-loss record and nine points, above fourth-placed Japan on set ratio. Türkiye are fifth on 1-3 and three.

United States and Slovenia kept up with their winning streak, striking their fourth back-to-back wins on Wednesday and leading the current standings on a 4-0 win-loss record and a full 12 points each, separated on set ratio. The Americans have lost only a set so far, while the Slovenians lost their second in the match against Egypt on Wednesday.

Egypt continued to give the favourites some hard time in Tokyo. This time, they surprised Slovenia by taking the first set of their encounter, before the strong European opponents came back to register a 3-1 (23-25, 25-22, 25-17, 25-14) victory, pushing the Africans down to sixth place on 1-3 and two points. Opposite Rok Mozic led the way with 21 points, including three blocks. Outside hitter Ziga Stern and middle blocker Jan Kozamernik added 12 and 10 points, respectively, for Slovenia. Opposite Reda Haikal, with 15 points, and outside Abdelrahman Eissa, with 14, led the Egyptian scorers.

In a match without suspense, the Americans produced a 3-0 (25-11, 25-12, 25-14) blowout of Tunisia, who are yet to win their first set in Tokyo. Spiking at a 69% success rate, opposite Kyle Ensing was the best scorer of the match with 13 points, including four kill blocks. Outside Thomas Jaeschke added another 10 for the winners.

Source : Volleyball World