Japan (JPN) vs. China (CHN) women - Pool 3 - Preliminary Phase #16299917

Sarina Koga in attack against China in front of full house in Macao

After starting the women’s 2024 Volleyball Nations League second competition week with a narrow defeat at the hands of Brazil, Japan got back on the winning track for the remaining three matches in Macao. They finished the week off with important four-set victories over Asian rivals China and the Dominican Republic, gaining 13.51 FIVB World Ranking points towards the race for Paris 2024 Olympic tickets.

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Friday’s Asian classic against hosts China ended with a score of 3-1 (25-22, 19-25, 25-18, 25-17) Japan’s way. Outside hitter and captain Sarina Koga was on fire, leading the time with 25 points, all in attack kills. Her cross-court teammate Arisa Inoue, who subbed in for Mayu Ishikawa during the second set, added another 18 points, while opposite Kotona Hayashi finished with 13 points. Outside Li Yingying was China’s most prolific player with 23 points, including three aces. Middle blocker and captain Yuan Xinyue and outside Wu Mengjie also reached the double digits with 10 points apiece.

On Saturday, Japan delivered a hard-fought 3-1 (25-20, 23-25, 26-24, 25-23) victory over Paris-bound Dominican Republic, with Koga once again leading the team’s scorers. This time, she put away 19 points, again all in offence. Hayashi and Ishikawa finished with 15 points each, while middle blocker Nichika Yamada added another 10, four of which in stuff blocks. Dominican opposite Gaila Gonzalez-Lopez hammered out the match high of 25 points, supported by outsides Madeline Guillen and Yonkaira Pena Isabel with 16 points apiece.

With this, Japan improved to a 6-2 win-loss record and 18 points, occupying third place in the current VNL standings, below undefeated Poland and Brazil.

“Winning over China yesterday meant gaining a lot of points towards the ranking, but losing today would have meant dropping a lot of points. So winning today was definitely very important. We tried to stay focused and managed to win again,” Sarina Koga told Volleyball World after the game against the Dominican Republic.

The Queens of the Caribbean failed to win any matches in Macao and finished their competition week on 2-6 and 6 points in 11th place.

Thailand’s winning mini streak stopped by China

Meanwhile China recovered with a 3-0 (25-23, 25-17, 25-18) shutout of Thailand on Saturday with a 23-point match high from Li and improved to 5-2 and 15 in fifth place. That result put an end to Thailand’s mini run of two wins in a row. On Friday, the hosts of the upcoming VNL Finals battled it out for a 3-2 (25-23, 25-21, 23-25, 20-25, 15-7) victory over the hosts of the upcoming Olympic Games, France. Middle Hattaya Bamrungsuk raised five kill blocks and led the winners with a total of 20 points, while French opposite Lucille Gicquel produced the match high of 23 points. Thailand are now 12th on 2-5 and 5. France are 14th on 1-6 and 4.

Brazil stay on winning track in titanic five-set duel with Italy

Saturday’s competition day started with a titanic five-set clash between Brazil and Italy. The South Americans put a stop to the southern Europeans’ five-match winning streak with a hard-fought 3-2 (26-24, 25-27, 18-25, 25-19, 15-10) victory. The 3.68 ranking points that this result moved from Italy’s to Brazil’s basket were just a small pebble in Italy’s smooth run towards the Olympics, as they remain the highest ranked team without a secured ticket yet.

The Italians outclassed the Brazilians both in spiking and from the serving line, but the abundant unforced errors tilted the balance the South Americans’ way. Outside Ana Cristina de Souza led the winners with 22 points, including three blocks and an ace, while Italy’s star opposite Paola Egonu topped the match charts with 29 points, also including three blocks and an ace. Boasting a 7-0 win-loss record and 19 points, Brazil are second only to Poland who have lost only one set in seven matches played so far. Italy are in fourth place on 5-2 and 16.

Gap of just 0.03 points separates Netherlands from Canada in tight race towards Paris

The Netherlands are still well within reach of a spot at Paris 2024, especially after Friday’s 3-1 (25-17, 23-25, 25-21, 25-17) victory over the Dominican Republic, which added 7.51 points towards their World Ranking score. Dutch outside Nova Marring came up with a match-high 21 points against the Dominicans. Canada and the Netherlands are still the two teams located right above and right below the red line for Olympic qualification in the World Ranking and the gap between them now is just a microscopic 0.03 points. Both, however, are currently right below the cut-off for the VNL Finals. Canada are eighth on 4-3 and 12 and the Netherlands are ninth on 3-4 and 9.

On Sunday’s last competition day in Macao, the Netherlands will meet France at 12:30 local time (04:30 UTC), Brazil will take on Thailand at 16:00 (08:00), and Italy will challenge hosts China at 19:30 (11:30).

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