HA HYEJIN GUIDES CLASSY KOREA TO 3-1 COMEBACK WIN OVER JAPAN
Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, September 16, 2018 – Brilliant Ha Hyejin spearheaded her majority of her team’s attacks, as fired-up Korea produced a magnificent come-from-behind 3-1 (21-25 25-18 29-27 25-23) victory over Japan in their opening Pool A encounter at the 6th AVC Cup for Women at the 5,000-seater Chartchai Hall here on Sunday.
Ha Hyejin scored a team-high 28 points for Korea including 24 kills from 54 attempts, 3 solid blocks and one ace, with Go Yerim adding 14 points including 11 attacks. Shiori Aratani led Japan with 14 points, while Miyu Nakagawa and Nichika Yamada kept good company to chip in with 13 and 12 points respectively.
Japan, seeking their maiden victory in the AVC Cup, fielded a formidable line-up led by Miwako Osanai, who steered her squad to their 2017 Asian U23 Championship title in Thailand, and Miyu Nakagawa, who captained her team to win the Asian U19 Championship early this year in Vietnam. Korea were represented by a young team with potential players led by hard-attacking Hwang Minkyoung and Ha Hyejin.
Both sides made a strong start in the first set. As the Japanese excelled in attack, the Koreans relied on counter-attacks, leaving the leads to change hands for several times in the middle of the set. Osanai and Nakagawa put Japan in front with a 3-point clear at 23-20 and captain Shiori Aratani made it 24-20 after firing a fierce spike which went unanswered. Japan allowed Korea one more point to take the see-saw set 25-21.
The second set turned out to be a different script when Korea were stylish and powerful and remained the side to beat in a tough-looking match. The Koreans initially gained the upper hand to lead 15-11, thanks largely to their improved blocking and fine attacks from Kim Chaeyeon and Ha Hyejin. Japan regrouped and fought back to reduce the margin 16-18, but their wonderful comeback didn’t last long as Korea stormed on to win the comfortable set 25-18.
In the third set, Korea’s excellent combination attacks still paid their dividends as they led from the beginning until mid-way when Japan upped their tempo and fought back to level at 15-15 and advance with a 4-point clear at 21-17. Korea gradually pulled their game together, with Ha Hyejin on fire to unleash thunderous spikes to level 22-22 and again 24-24. Both sides poured everything, but Korea played more consistently for the hard-fought 29-27 win in the set.
Both sides came up with almost the same standard in the fourth set, but Korea played with more confidence following their 2-1 advantage. Levelling 9-9, Korea surged ahead the formidable opponents, with Ha Hyejin and Go Yerim in excellent offensive combination for the 16-14 lead. In an effort of turning the tide, Japan regained their composure and struck back with brilliant form to meet the tough rivals at 17-17 and lead narrowly with one-point advantage at 20-19. However, Korea remained firm in their defence and displayed plenty of craft and substance to catch up with the rivals at 23-23. Ha Hyejin was instrumental in lifting Korea’s 25-23 win in the set for the eventual 3-1 triumph.
Despite the loss, Japan head coach Kiyoshi Abo, who led his U23 team to maiden victory at the last year’s Asian U23 Championship in Thailand and U19 squad to victory at the Asian U19 Championship in Vietnam early this year, expressed his satisfaction over his team’s performance.
“Our performance was not stable, sometime good, sometime not so good. Korea have strong opposite players and we could not react their attacks. Most of my team players are under-23. I need them to gain more experience from major competitions like this. However, our target is to win this tournament. Although we lost in today’s match, I’m happy with my team’s performance. I believe that we still have an opportunity to win this tournament. We will do our best in the remaining matches. We next play hosts Thailand and we try to play a close game against them,” Kiyoshi Abo commented after the match.
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