The home team in Nagoya defeat Dominican Republic in four sets
Outside hitter Sarina Koga led hosts Japan to a 3-1 (25-23, 25-18, 22-25, 25-15) victory over the Dominican Republic in their opening Volleyball Nations League 2023 Pool 2 match in Nagoya on Tuesday.
Koga delivered the match high of 24 points, including an ace and a kill block. Arisa Inoue added another 17 points, while middle blocker Mai Irisawa impressed with five kill blocks towards a total tally of 10 points.
Brayelin Martinez was Dominican Republic’s best scorer with 16 points and her sister and teammate Jineiry in the middle also raised five kill blocks, the only element at which the Caribbeans slightly outscored their Asian opponents.
The Dominicans rushed off with an early 8-2 lead, but inspired by the home fans and led by their captain Koga, Japan battled back to catch up at 18-18 and then pushed forward to close the first set at 25-23.
Further improving their attack and their blocking, the home side completely dominated the second set. Three kill blocks from Irisawa helped them open a wide gap on the way to a 25-18 close, shaped up with a smart shot from Koga for the winning point.
The third set was closely contested, with the lead swinging back and forth. With Yonkaira Pena spearheading the Dominican attack and Brayelin Martinez setting off a momentum with two consecutive aces for 20-18, the girls from the Caribbean stayed cooler in the money time and a monster block by Lisvel Eve ended the set at 25-22. Japan regained full control in set four. Five points in a row gave them a 7-2 lead and they never looked back, cruising on to a 25-15 close with sub-in Mizuki Tanaka delivering the match winner.
The Japanese players celebrate
“It’s been a while since we last played here and I am so happy to compete in front of all these Japanese fans,” Koga said after the match. “Our team has really fast combinations and we have to continue playing fast like this in the next matches.”
Japan’s next match is against Croatia on Friday, while Dominican Republic will be back in action on Thursday with a game against Bulgaria.
Germany’s Hanna Orthmann
Earlier on Tuesday in Nagoya, the VNL 2023 opened with a game between European neighbours Germany and the Netherlands. Opposite Hanna Orthmann produced a match-high 24 points, including five aces, to lead Germany to a 3-1 (25-21, 25-22, 20-25, 25-22) victory. Middle blocker Indy Baijens was the Dutch team’s most prolific player with 17 points.
The first competition day continues with two Pool 1 matches in Antalya, Türkiye. Starting at 17:00 local time (14:00 UTC), defending champions Italy will begin their 2023 campaign with a game against Thailand. The fixture between challenger teams Poland and Canada is scheduled at 20:00 (17:00).
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