DAY 06 SUMMARY Japan 3-2 South Korea
Goiania, Brazil, June 3, 2018 - Tatsuya Fukuzawa broke Korean hearts to help Japan seal a dramatic comeback triumph and win a brilliant Asian derby 3-2 (27-29, 25-19, 16-25, 28-26, 15-12).
Fukuzawa was the hero with 19 points - six crucially came in the fifth set - while Haku Ri weighed in with five aces. Yuji Nishida (16 points) and Issei Otake with nine points from the bench also contributed.
Korea came into the match as the only side in the VNL without a set to their name and although they destroyed that statistic, the manner of this crushing defeat will be difficult to take as they slumped to their fifth defeat in a row to the Japanese.
They had heroes all over the court although Sung-Min Moon’s 22 spikes was the standout performance while Jiseok Jung (15 spikes, two aces) and Kwang-In Jeon (15 spikes, one block and two aces) also impressed yet this defeat failed to move the Koreans off the bottom of the VNL table.
Korea may be the lowest ranked side in the tournament without a win so far but they have been boosted by some spirited performances over the weekend which in many ways belied their lowly status in the volleyball world.
Japan have not lost a set to their Asian rivals in their past four meetings - both sides came into this clash looking for a first win in Goiania following testing encounters against Brazil and the USA - though were set for a rude awakening at the start of this rollercoaster encounter.
With Moon spiking powerfully and Kwang's all round game causing problems , Kim Hochul’s side were always in the match even if the Japanese moved 22-20 ahead in a razor-tight first set.
There was, however, much more drama to follow. The lead continued to change hands but at 27-26, Korea thought their first ever VNL set was in the bag only for Akihiro Yamauchi to produce a wonderful block to keep his side in it.
The Koreans couldn’t be denied and when a scorching Jung smash was unable to be saved, they were finally on the board. Cue wild celebrations.
And why not?
Japan needed to get key man Yuji Nishida into game and it was the opposite spiker’s influence which helped bring Yuichi Nakagaichi’s side level.
Fukuzawa also came to the party and although Korea had managed to pull back to 19-14, the momentum shift was firmly with the Japanese and when Akihiro Yamauchi brilliantly blocked at the net , the set was sealed and the clash placed firmly in the balance.
Japan, who were two sets up against the US on Friday before falling in five, had the bit between their teeth but you just couldn’t keep Korea down.
Their defensive game was on point - Kim in particular was fantastically resolute - and 19-13 soon became 24-16 with Moon providing the finishing touches to put Korea on the brink of their first win at this tournament.
The fourth was once again too close to call.
Otake was called on from the sidelines and the opposite spiker made an instant impact - five points helped the scores to get to 21-21 - but a crucial block from Lee Min-Gyu helped keep Korea alive.
The error count between the two pushed past 50 - Japan’s Takahashi smacked a serve into the net at set point before another Moon spike saved a second - though when Korea had their first match point at the end of a typically fiercely contested rally, Otake was on hand to keep out the opposition and provide the platform which sent this rollercoaster affair into decider.
Smart play by Kyumin Kim helped Korea edge 7-5 ahead but a fearsome final set display from Fukuzawa and Otake proved too much for the Koreans who gave so much to a memorable match.
Japan now return home for week three action against high-flying Poland, Bulgaria and Italy while Korea travel to Provence to take on Argentina, France and Serbia.
Germany 3-1 Poland
odz, Poland, June 3, 2018 – Germany’s captain Lukas Kampa delivered an off-the-net ace to close off a sensational 3-1 (25-18, 25-21, 21-25, 27-25) win over table leaders Poland in the sixth leg of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League.
The German setter crowned his great overall performance in the match when it mattered the most, on his team’s first match point, and rounded off his tally to six points - two spikes, two stuff blocks and two aces.
Kampa’s top-level setting skills provided for quite a well spread scoring distribution for the German squad, with Moritz Reichert (one ace) and Simon Hirsch (one ace, four blocks) topping the chart with 12 points each, while Marcus Boehme finished with 10, including two aces and three stuff blocks.
Poland’s captain Michal Kubiak also showed a tremendous performance on the other side of the net and became by far the best scorer of the match with 21 points – 15 spikes, two aces and four blocks.
Once again, the sold-out stands at the Atlas Arena in Lodz tried to take on the role of Poland’s additional player, but with Hirsch leading the way, Germany outperformed the home heroes in the first two sets. Kubiak led his teammates on the path of a spectacular comeback, winning the third set and reaching set point in the fourth, only to concede the team’s first loss in the competition. For Germany this was only the second win in the Volleyball Nations League and first over Poland in a major world level competition since 2010.
In what was already a very tense fourth set, in which the nerves took over and both teams committed way too many unforced errors, the lead had already changed hands a few times, when Kubiak elegantly tipped the ball for a 24-23 set point for Poland. Another set point came at 25-24, again after a successful Kubiak spike off the opponents’ block. With mercury rising in the hall and the fans getting well into the mood for an exciting tie-breaker set, Marcus Boehme shot through the middle to draw level. Simon Hirsch delivered Germany’s match point with a fantastic kill block and Lukas Kampa finished the job with an off-the-net ace and a little bit of good luck.
Having played at home during the first two weeks of the competition, Poland will now travel to Osaka to play against Bulgaria, Italy and hosts Japan. The Germans will make the trip to Ottawa to meet Australia, USA and the home team of Canada. The matches are from June 8 through 10.
Serbia 3-2 Australia
Sofia, Bulgaria, June 3, 2018 - After playing the full 15 sets in Sofia, Serbia will be pleased to be leaving Bulgaria with three victories. Usually top scorers will be the key players of match, but it was half way through the 4th set against Australia that this game was decided as Serbia reverted to their strongest line-up bringing on captain Marko Ivovic, their top scorer Drazen Luburic and star middle Srecko Lisinac. All combined to dominate the 5th set and secure another 3-2 victory (25-23, 25-19, 20-25, 25-27, 15-9) meaning after week 2 Serbia sit in 6th position in the standings.
Drazen Luburic had been the star man for Serbia in their two previous 5 set wins against Bulgaria and Russia, but in his place came Dusan Petkovic who ran hot and cold but ended up top scoring across the match with 18 points. In a much changed starting line-up, Serbia appeared to have control of the match, but if it wasn’t for bringing in their leading names they may well have let it slip away.
Australia were on a high after their first Volleyball Nations League victory yesterday against Bulgaria and started strongly. It took until 18-17 for Serbia to lead in the first set with the Aussie side leading by three at each technical timeout. After this there was not the zip and vigour that is to be expected from the 'Volleyroos'. However that soon changed with the introduction of some of their bench players. Jordan Richards (16) and Thomas Hodges (15) both came in mid way through the second set and yet finished just short of top scorer Max Staples (17).
Prior to the match the head-to-head stood at 5-1 to Serbia, but Australia did win the last encounter (in five sets) in 2015. Australia also seemed to like playing against European opposition, with six of their last eight victories coming against teams from the old continent. In week three, Serbia head to France while Australia can next be seen in action in Canada.
Across the first set Serbia may not have got any aces, or blocks for that matter, but some tactical serving from the Balkan side by choosing to avoid Australia’s libero Luke Perry and by pinning position five meant Williams struggled to get into the game. In the end a service error presented the first set to Serbia 25-23.
There was only one team in it for the first part of the second set, with Serbia leading 10-4 and then 16-9. This was when Australia’s coach Mark Lebedew rang the changes with Richards and Hodges coming in. He also had some harsh words to say as his team gathered for the second technical, most of which cannot be printed but the final sentence was “Look each other in the eye and play the game.” It seemed to work with his team coming out with more intent and getting back to within 4 points (14-18) but that was as close as they got.
Serbia have lost at least one set in their last 10 major world level fixtures, so it was not all over. The first point of the third was scrappy and went to Australia, so when the first referee called Serbia for a screen at 1-1 the team from down under started to believe.
With setter Arshdeep Dosanjh also starting, that meant three players were starting a set for the first time in the game. There was more confidence and flow in the Australian game that resulted in a 16-13 lead at the second technical. In a clear difference in approach, while Serbia were going for power, the 'Volleyroos' were finding a greater variety of ways to take the points, often catching the Balkan defence on their heels.
At 20-17, Thomas Hodges adjusted to a wide set and found the floor. Serbia challenged for a foot fault, more out of hope then expectation, but it turned out to be a wise decision with a few millimetres of his shoe touching the attack line. Australian composure was there in abundance though and a service error by substitute Ivan Kostic meant Serbia again failed to take a win in straight sets.
The match continued in the same vain, so at 3-6 Serbian Coach Nikola Grbić introduced his captain Marko Ivovic and there was an immediate impact. It was still close at double figures but with Jordan Richards relishing his time on court and his enthusiasm rubbing off on his team-mates, they built a lead and maintained it right through to the twenties.
Trailing by three, in came the big guns as Drazen Luburic and Srecko Lisinac were introduced. But it was Ivovic who was raising his game but in the end a mega rally resulted in a mistake from Nikola Mijailovic and we were into a 5th set, again.
With Serbia starting with their so-called strongest team, and their captain on the service line they raced to three point lead. Ivovic was dominant in all areas of the game and as he excelled he dragged his team with him. Serbia came back from 5-10 down against Bulgaria on Friday, so when they led by the same score they were more focused than ever.
A challenge at 13-9 appeared to give Australia a lifeline, but the officials disagreed with what most others appeared to see and up stepped Luburic who served an ace to make it three five set wins in three days for Serbia in the Bulgarian capital.
Russia 3-0 Bulgaria
Sofia, Bulgaria, June 3, 2018. Russia bounced back well from their loss to Serbia yesterday with a comfortable straight sets win against this weekend'shost (25-17, 25-15, 25-21). The main man in attack and defence, Egor Kliuka, scored with ease finishing 12 points, but being part of the creation of a large number more. Even when things got vaguely tense towards the end of the third set, he took his game to an even higher level.
Dmitriy Muserskiy is Russia's leading scorer to date in the Volleyball Nations League (the only middle blocker to do so for his team) with 77 points, however apart from the occasional moment of brilliance he was more on the periphery today with “only” 10 points. As well as star man Egor Kliuka, others exerting their influence on the match were Anton Karpukhov (7) and Konstantin Bakun (6). With the same 7 starting each set, and them only using two substitutes, Russia’s coach Sergei Shliapnikov was proven right to stick with the same team for this one.
The last time Bulgaria failed to win a set in successive major world level matches was at the 2014 World Championships, so they will leave the weekend needing to address their issues if they are to make the finals in France next month. Top performers for the home side today changed through the course of the match, with no player reaching double figures, only Nikolay Uchikov achieved a reasonable number taking 9 points.
Bulgaria have won only eight of their 47 previous matches against Russia (including as Soviet Union and CIS) at world level major competitions, with Russia winning nine of their last 10, the exception being their most recent meeting (a 3-2 win for Bulgaria in the 2017 World League). Russia were always in control of this one, and head home for week 3 while Plamen Konstantinov’s side travel to Japan.
Russia showed all of their strengths in the first set and after going 3-0 up seemed to always be in control of the match and with it the home crowd. The sole shining light for Bulgaria in set 1 was opposite hitter Uchikov, as they missed their main setter Georgi Bratoev after his ankle injury the day before, Georgi Seganov coming in for him.
One mega rally worth checking out started with the score at 4-6 and featured three pancakes and incredible scrambling defence from both sides. The final point was symbolic for the set, as a stuff block from Ilia Vlasov secured it for the reigning European Champions to 17 points.
The second set followed a similar trend with Russia having the edge in all departments of the game, being led well by their setter and captain Igor Kobzar. Everyone enjoyed a funny moment at 16-10 to Russia when a line shot by Valentin Bratoev appeared to leave a mark on the floor and just like in Beach Volleyball both teams were debating whether it was in or out. The challenge system had the final say though, proving it was out – and by some way.
It was the same with the set point, as Russia were successful in overturning an in/out decision to take it 25-15.
With the home crowd starting to realise that today was not their day either, Russia pushed on ever harder in the third set. It was 16-11 at the second time-out which signalled a slight revival for Bulgaria, urged on by the ever positive Libero Teodor Salparo, but the closer they got the more focused Russia became. The home side managed to save a couple of set points, but ultimately the lead was too big and a service error from Nikolay Uchikov closed a disappointing weekend for Bulgaria.
Brazil 3-2 United States
Goiania, Brazil, June 3, 2018 - Isac Santos smashed home a dramatic match winning ace as Brazil sensationally came from two sets down to send the USA crashing to their first VNL defeat and seal an epic 3-2 triumph (21-25, 20-25, 25-19, 25-20, 20-18). Wallace was again the leading marksman for the Olympic champions, whacking down 18 spikes, two blocks and an ace to help the Brazilians leapfrog their rivals and move into joint-top place alongside Poland.Mauricio Silva was also a constant threat with 13 spikes, five blocks and two aces but the Americans will be wondering long into the night how they let this one slip having established such a dominant lead.Matthew Anderson’s 23 points (22 spikes and an ace) together with sterling efforts from Aaron Russell (16 points) and Thomas Jaeschke (18 points) were the foundations of a typically robust US display, though 40 errors from their side of the net ultimately cost them dear as did having to endure two long, emotional five set matches following their thrilling escape against Japan on Friday.With news filtering through of Poland’s surprise defeat to Germany, the US knew a straight-sets triumph would be enough to send John Speraw’s team to the top of the VNL heading into the third week of competition.Yet when the two best sides on the planet lock horns, it’s never straightforward.The US certainly deserved their two set lead - Anderson was spiking with serious force while Jeffrey Jendryk was a constant in defense.A packed home crowd certainly loved the opening exchanges although tensions boiled over at 21-19 in the first. A disputed call by the Brazilians was unable to be contested as all the video challenges had been used.Cue a furious row between Lipe, Wallace - Brazil’s most potent threat once again - and referee Luis Gerardo Macias which resulted in the former receiving a yellow card. Replays showed the call was indeed correct yet the Olympic champions were still furious. There was more arguing at 24-12 - this time Macias was unsure himself and used the technology but the point went to the US as did the first set.Coach Sperow urged his side - for whom Anderson had already racked up five spikes and an ace - to target Lipe who was struggling to keep his cool in the red hot heat of battle.The US , however, just blocked everything out and continued to forge ahead. Wing spiker Thomas Joeschke was getting in on the act, a fearsome spike extended his side’s lead to 15-10 and although Isac was blocking well, Brazil were unable to stop their rivals from doubling their lead.Ironically it was a Lipe error when he got in Isac’s way which sealed the second set.Brazil had to improve or risk sliding to their second defeat of the VNL - and so it proved.The excellent and consistent Wallace - two scorching spikes conjured up two set points which were saved before another hammer finish was sent long by the American defense - was the inspiration but Lipe’s ability to regain his composure was also key.You could just feel the momentum swinging towards the men in yellow and although the match was very much in the balance at 9-9, once Brazil started to extend their lead thanks to some impressive team cohesion, we were all treated to a box office fifth and decisive set.At 7-4 , Renan Dal Zotto’s side were looking like favorites to win this epic contest. A huge Anderson block brought it back to 8-6 and that reignited Speraw’s men to edge ahead 11-10 with captain David Smith also bringing his defensive skills to the table.Patch served hopelessly long at match point and then Jaeschke hit the net. Three match points were saved by Brazil in a breathless ending before a magical stuff block from Wallace gave the home team their first chance to win the match - only for Anderson to save the day once again.Another match point went begging for Brazil but then Isac sent the Goiania Arena crazy with that final ace.
China 3-1 France
Lodz, Poland, June 3, 2018 – Chuan Jiang contributed an incredible 30 points towards China’s 3-2 (16-25, 25-22, 25-21, 16-25, 15-13) upset of pre-favourites France in the last match of the three-day FIVB Volleyball Nations League tournament in Lodz.
After a slow start of “only” three points in the first set, Jiang exploded to fire a total of 26 spikes, two kill blocks and two aces to help his team turn things around against the strong opponent and to become by far the best scorer of the match.
As much as Jiang was practically a “one man show” on the Chinese side of the net, some key points were scored by Jingyin Zhang (total of nine) and Shuhan Rao (eight, including three stuff blocks and one ace) as well.
Kevin Tillie was France’s top scorer with 16 points, while his teammate Thibault Rossard added another 15, three of which directly from the serving line.
France completely dominated the first set of the match, before Jiang led his team to recovery on the way to a 2-1 advantage. France regained control in the fourth set to prompt a decider, in which China came back from a three-point deficit to emerge victorious. This result is China’s second win and France’s second loss in the six legs since the start of the competition
The French managed an early 4-1 lead in the fifth set before China’s first break point of the tie-breaker came from a Jiang ace. The 23-year-old opposite fired one off the opponents’ block for the next break point, levelling the score at 5-5. Even though France managed another two-point lead at the side switch, Jiang responded with a 98.5 km/h back row shot to keep his team within a point.
Jiang levelled it at 9-9 with a successful spike that marked the beginning of a series of three Chinese break points, which gave the team a two-point lead that France could never recover from. Of course, Jiang was instrumental for the remaining points of the sequence, showing off his blocking skills as well. He stopped an attack by Stephen Boyer for 10-9. In the very long next rally the Chinese block prevented Boyer from scoring several times before prompting an error on the French side for 11-9. Jiang scored twice more through the end of the tie-breaker, including the very last point, which fixed the big victory for the Asian squad.
From June 8 through 10, France will entertain Argentina, Korea and Serbia at home, in Aix en Provence, while China take on Russia, Brazil and Iran in the Russian city of Ufa.
Canada 3-1 Iran
San Juan, Argentina, June 3, 2018 - Ryan Sclater stood tall as Canada completed a perfect streak during week two of the Volleyball Nations League with a comfortable victory 3-1 (25-23, 25-22, 21-25, 25-21) over Iran. Sclater smashed down 16 winners on offense and had the knack of saving his most telling contributions for vital stages of the game as Canada won their third straight to cap off an ideal week in San Juan. Stephen Maar backed up Sclater with 13 total points as the Canadians bounced back from a surprising collapse in the third set to hold on for another vital victory, to give their chances as a VNL finals place a further boost. Amir Ghafour battled bravely for Iran, snapping off 15 spike winners plus four blocking kills, and spearheaded his team’s third set revival. However, Canada dug deep when it counted and with Sclater a towering presence at the net, rode their new-found wave of confidence to another haul of all three points. With Iran still nursing the disappointment of their defeat to Italy the previous day, Canada started strongly, with Sclater and Jason Derocco opening up a strong lead before their opponents could get into stride. In what would become a theme, Ghafour led a revival to narrow the gap to 22-23, but Canada sealed the set following a hotly-disputed challenge and moved into the lead. The second set largely belonged to Maar, who was also outstanding in Saturday’s win over host nation Argentina. After trailing 7-3, Canada reeled off a run of five straight points and never looked back, clinching a two-set advantage when Maar powered home a thundering winner on set point. At that stage it seemed as if Canada’s ruthless consistency would take it to a routine straight sets win, especially when a 9-2 gap opened up in the third. But then Iran coach Igor Kolakovic pleaded for a response for his players, begging them for a final effort. He got one. Morteza Sharifi popped off the bench and delivered some stout serving and emotional intensity, while Farhad Ghaemi pulled things level with a pinpoint ace. Iran were suddenly fired up, and moved to set point when Sharifi hammered a spike off the head of Steven Marshall, before Ghafour held his nerve to close things out. Canada was temporarily rattled, and had a nervous moment when Maar landed on the foot of Ghafour and appeared to have hurt his ankle. He battled on though, and Sclater picked up the slack. Another lead was built by the North Americans in the fourth, with Sclater proving impossible to block and growing in confidence the longer things progressed. One final winner secured the win and will give Canada some serious confidence heading into their home leg of the VNL next week, with the United States, Germany and Australia due to visit. Iran will hope to get their campaign back on track with a trip to Russia, where they will meet the host nation, China and Brazil.
Argentina 3-0 Italy
San Juan, Argentina, June 3, 2018 - Facundo Conte sparked mass celebrations as he led host nation Argentina to their first Volleyball Nations League victory with a dramatic straight sets upset triumph over Italy 3-0 (25-19, 33-31, 25-20).Conte could not contain his pride as he was engulfed by teammates at Estadio Aldo Cantoni after Argentina showed style in ending a frustrating run of five consecutive defeats to begin the competition.Twelve total points made Conte his team’s joint top scorer along with Tomas Lopez, but this was a match that was all about emotion and commitment and showcased the fierce desire of the home team. The Argentinean effort was a true team performance and the joyous scenes at the end were a testament to the squad’s never-say-die mentality. When Lisandro Zanotti’s spike secured the final point, the Argentina bench rushed the court in delight, veteran head coach Julio Velasco danced with his assistants, and blue and white confetti showered down from the rafters.Italian stars Ivan Zaytsev and Osmany Juantorena contributed 14 and 13 points respectively on offense, but after snatching an extraordinary and tense second set Argentina had all the answers, leaving Italy to reflect on a disappointing return of just one win from the San Juan series of matches.Energy and enthusiasm were the hallmarks of the Argentina team at the start of the game, with a clear determination to finally end the frustrating losing streak that had put them near the foot of the VNL table and give their home fans something to get excited about at the end of a tough week. Conte, for so long his country’s talisman, was on song from the start, ably assisted by Lopez, who instantly found a rich seam of form. The defense was on cue to blunt Zaytsev’s scoring chances, with Lopez clinching a comfortable opening set win.The second was a classic. Italy looked good while opening up a 17-11 lead, but Zanotti turned the momentum with a stunning block on Zaytsev and Martin Ramos saved set point with his first point of the night.Italy were siding out effectively but hurt their own cause with three straight fault serves as the score crept up to 29-29, neither team willing to fold. When Daniele Mazzone struck an ace and then had Argentina in trouble again off serve it looked like Italy could level at 1-1, but an incredible diving save from Conte kept the hosts afloat, and then more solid defense teed up Zanotti for the set-winning kill.There were thrilling moments throughout. Matias Sanchez produced one of the highlights with a spectacular dive along the floor and into his own bench, while Dasani’s celebration at the end of the second saw him leap into the arms of Conte.More work was still needed, but by now Argentina were rolling at full steam. Sebastian Sole’s beautiful tip over the net opened up a 14-9 gap, but Italy chipped away at the lead as a few nerves crept in. The margin got as close as 20-21, but a Juantorena fault and another telling contribution from the little-used Ramos, this time with a critical block, put Argentina on the brink.With Conte urging his colleagues for calm Zanotti rattled off the final two winners, leading to tears, hugs and a stirring outburst of excitement from the jubilant San Juan crowd.Italy heads to Japan next week, to take on that country, Poland and Bulgaria, stung by having slipped down to seventh in the standings after an undefeated first week.Argentina will be in France, for a group that also includes Serbia and South Korea. The South Americans are down in 14th place, but the morale boost from this dramatic night will give them hope of a strong resurgence.