Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 9, 2016 – Japan started 2016 FIVB World Grand Prix with a thrilling 3-0 (31-29, 25-18. 28-26) win over Serbia. Japanese wing spiker Sarina Koga had a gala performance and led the Asian side to victory, scoring 20 points.
After finishing sixth at 2015 World Grand Prix, Japan kicked off their 2016 campaign with a straight set victory over Serbia. For Asians this was the third win in a row over Serbian team and fourth in World Grand Prix. For Serbia this was the eighth loss in the last 11 World Grand Prix matches. Sarina Koga was the strongest weapon of her team, scoring 20 points, with 16 attacks, 3 blocks and one ace serve. Serbian opposite Jovana Brakocevic made her official come back to the ream after giving birth to her son in 2015. Brakocevic was the best scorer of her team with 18 points.
The first set was a preview that this match would tough. With both sides struggling for each point. The two sides switched places along the whole set, but the Japanese manage to take the lead right in the last lap. After a thrilling sequence of set points, Japan finally got it by 31-29.
Japan started the second set with a better performance led by Sarina Koga. On the Serbian Jovana Brakocevic was main attack source, but it was not enough. The Japanese’s defense system proved to be a strong feature on court helping the Asian team to get the set by 25-18.
Despite the two-set loss in a row, Serbia went back on court with a willing to get back on track and change the game. Once again counting on Javana Brakocevic the Europeans were ahead on the scoreboard most of the time. The Japanese setter focused to deceive the adversary block and often called Mai Yamaguchi and Yukiko Ebata, but a few turnovers made the task harder. Nevertheless, the Asians managed to rearrange the tactics and reset the direction of the match. When everything seemed to head to a 3-0 win by Japan, the Serbians woke up. The attacks from Jovana Brakocevic and Ivana Djerisilo and Mina Popovic’s blocking gave some stamina to the European side. Despite all the efforts from the Serbians, Japan confirmed the first victory after a breathtaking end of the set, 28-26.