By Marie Louise Principe
Chiba, Japan, September 19, 2021 – Iran succeeded to defend the crown at the 21st Asian Senior Men’s Volleyball Championship, after a thrilling 3-0 (27-25, 25-22, 31-29) final showdown with hosts Japan at the Chiba Port Arena on Sunday.
Opposite Saber Kazemi, who charted a total of 21 points, including the crucial plays that led toward Iran’s title defense.
Meisam Salehi started off, getting into a good tempo from with the left side attack and the pipe plays. Kazemi added ammunition from the right side. The Iran block likewise proved strong and solid that Japan needed to be creative in offense.
Yuki Ishikawa managed to find ways against the tight defense, by bringing the ball off-speed , or simply by powering through the block.
Libero Tomohiro Yamamoto handled the backcourt well to keep their transitions running and to finally connect with a well set-up attack.
The teams played along each side-out, with Ishikawa running the pipe to extend the set.
Aliasghar Mojarad rushed to the right side to impose a huge block to take the first set for Iran, 27-25.
In the second set, the home team Japan maximized their advantage with the passing unit. As Iran was putting more pressure in the serve, the Japanese side needed to really cover every nook and cranny of the court and keep the ball in play, no matter what.
Japan was playing superbly in transition, which also forced the same depth of floor coverage from the opposing side. They showed a slight edge as they could easily convert their fast rhythm into surprise plays.
Ran Takahashi, rather silent in attack yet superb in the passing lanes, later exploded with the pipe attack to bring the Chiba crowd cheering.
Iran responded and quickly lined up their blocks to prevent any further damage. Kazemi kept unfazed swinging from the right wing to take the set, 25-22.
By the third set, the home crowd at Port Arena marveled at the spitfire swings of their captain Ishikawa, bringing motivation and momentum to the Japan squad. Takahashi provided further firepower.
Iran setter Javad Karimi continued to play Kazemi from the right, while Salehi soared from the pipe.
Amir Hossein Toukhteh, alternating between well-timed blocks and quick attacks, further built the momentum amidst the tight side-out pursuit.
Kazemi, who was visibly limping, and Takahashi exchanged explosive points to extend the set.
Iran seized the championship ,31-29, after a successfully called challenge on Japan’s net contact.
With their successful bid for the title defense, Iran now hold a total of four championship trophies in the competition’s history. They also retained the crown along the 2011 and 2013 editions.
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