Surabaya, Indonesia, August 1, 2017 – Japan stamped their domination over the SMM 19th Asian Senior Men’s Volleyball Championship after overpowering Kazakhstan in thrilling four-setter 25-13 25-20 25-27 25-23 in the final showdown at the Tri Dharma Petrokimia Gymnasium on Tuesday, stretching their invincibility at the top-flight competition to nine out of 11 finals they have entered.
Japan have already won the Asian title for eight times – 1975 in Melbourne, Australia, 1983 in Tokyo, Japan, 1987 in Kuwait, 1991 in Perth, Australia, 1995 in Doha, Qatar, 2005 in Suphan Buri, Thailand, 2009 in Manila, the Philippines and 2015 in Tehran, where they stunned hosts Iran 3-1 to reign supreme.
Against Kazakhstan in the final showdown on Tuesday, Japan played a perfect match as they fielded several individual talents including Yuki Ishikawa and Masahiro Yanagida, both of them have been playing professional league in Italy.
As Kazakhstan pulled off an upset 3-2 win against Korea in the semi-finals, the Japanese also performed brilliantly to stop hosts Indonesia’s remarkable run in the Asia’s top-tier competition with a straight-set win in the other semi-final clash.
Japan started with their awesome combination, superb skill and consistency. Taking a slender 4-3 lead, the Japanese won seven points in a row to stretch it to 11-3, thanks to talented Ishikawa’s super powerful mid-court attacks and Yanagida’s terrific jump serves. Despite a brave fightback, Kazakhstan found their determined attempts in vain as their game was riddled with unforced attacking and serving errors. Japan clinched the one-sided first set 25-13.
Kazakhstan fought back hard to make amends in the second set, but Japan continued their unchallenged attacks with impenetrable defence by Akihiro Yamauchi and Takashi Dekita and exceptional spikes from Ishikawa. Japan snatched the second set 25-20.
The third set turned out to be a hotly-contested battle when both sides gave it all-out to win the set. Kazakhstan, powered by Vitaliy Varivodin and Alexandr Stolnikov, took an initial 13-11 lead, widened the gap to 19-17 and held on to win the hard-fought set 27-25.
The fourth set became more thrilling when both sides tried their utmost to win the tough battle. Japan fared well to advance 16-14. Kazakhstan sent in Dmitry Vovnenko, the tournament’s tallest player with an incredible height of 212cm, to strengthen their blocking powers. Their intention paid its dividends as they fought to an exciting 22-22 draw. Japan advanced 24-23 before a sharp attack from Dekita went without returning. Japan captured the thrilling set 25-23 and the championship.
Yuki Ishikawa scored a match-high 21 points for Japan from 14 kills from 32 attempts, 4 solid blocks and 3 ace serves. Takashi Dekita contributed 9 kills. Vitaliy Erdshtein led Kazakhstan with 11 points and Vitaliy Varivodin added 9 kills.
“To win the final is a great, great thing. Before this tournament, we have already won the World Championship AVC Qualifier Pool B in Australia. I think we were not in good condition and we had bad performance from the very beginning of this tournament. We just made it better and better day by day. However, many teams such as Kazakhstan, Indonesia and China have already proved that they are coming stronger. We made several mistakes in passing and blocking in the third set, which we lost to Kazakhstan. We just hit the balls to the rivals’ blocks. After this, we will have a 10-day rest and prepare for the World Grand Champions’ Cup at home,” commented Japan’s head coach Yuichi Nakagaichi.
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