Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, September 28, 2016 – Asian champions Japan pulled off a dramatic 3-1 (25-18 17-25 28-26 25-12) victory over Chinese Taipei in the third-place playoff to claim bronze medal at the “SMM” 5th AVC Cup for Men at the Nakhon Pathom Gymnasium on Wednesday.
Chinese Taipei, whose most players joined the gold-winning Taichung Bank VC at the last year’s Asian Men’s Club Championship on home soil, fielded a formidable line-up included Liu Hong-Jie, Chen Chien-Chen and left-hander Wu Tsung-Hsuan, while Japan were powered by ace spiker Yuki Ishikawa, who won the Best Outside Hitter award at the 2015 FIVB World Cup and the second Best Outside Hitter award at this year’s World Olympic Qualification Tournament, and hefty Issei Otake.
Japan got off to a great start in the opening set when Ishikawa showed his exceptional talent in serving and attacking to put his team in front 4-0 before Chinese Taipei put their acts together and hit back with fierce attacks from Chen Chien-Chen. Japan upped their tempo to widen the margin to 22-17 and 24-18 before winning the set effortlessly when a spike from Chinese Taipei went wide. The Japanese took the set 25-18.
In the second set, Chinese Taipei replaced Wu Tsung-Hsuan with Wang Ming-Chun and he became a major force for the team to be reckoned with in this crucial match. He methodically tore the Japanese defence apart with his thundering spikes. Leading by wide margin 20-15, Chinese Taipei moved on to win the set 25-17.
Hoping for a comeback in the third set, Japan gathered their courage and played more confidently and consistently. With Ishikawa and Kenta Takanashi attacking aggressively at the pole, Japan took an initial 6-2 lead before Chinese Taipei roared back with thundering spikes from Wang Ming-Chun and Chen Chien-Chen to catch up with the tough rivals 12-12 and 21-21 before advancing 24-23. However, Chinese Taipei just let the win in this set slip through their fingers when they briefly lost concentration, allowing the Japanese to come to life. Japan bounced back mightily to win the hard-fought set 28-26.
The fourth set was expected earlier to become more thrilling, but it eventually turned out to be a one-sided affair. Japan solidly blocked the spectacular attacks from Chinese Taipei and fought back heavily with sharp cross-court spikes from Kenta Takanashi and Ishikawa. Japan captured the comfortable set 25-12, match and the third place.
Yuki Ishikawa led Japan with 22 points including 16 kills from 31 attempts and 4 aces. Kenta Takanashi added with 12 kills. Wang Ming-Chun tallied 13 points for Chinese Taipei including 12 kills. Chen Chien-Chen added with 10 kills. Liu Hong-Jie contributed with 3 kill blocks.
“It was a tough match for us. We did our best. In the second set, Chinese Taipei came up with great serves and we could not cope with their tactics. These Japanese players will now have a bright future as we are preparing them for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. It’s a pity we could not make it to the final as we have initially eyed for the gold medal. However, the third place is not that bad,” Japan’s head coach Shingo Sakai commented after the match.