International Volleyball



The Asians came back from a 14-11 deficit in the tie-breaker and avoided nine Cuban match points to secure their third win in the VNL

Nishida scored the game-winning point for Japan, as well as five aces

After winning their first two matches in the Volleyball Nations League 2024, Japan and Cuba battled in one of the most exciting duels of the tournament so far on Friday, in Rio de Janeiro, and the Asians emerged on the winning side of it after more than two hours of action to remain undefeated.

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Japan, who donโ€™t have star outside hitters Yuki Ishikawa and Ran Takahashi available this week, started some other key starters on the beach against the Cubans, such as opposite Yuji Nishida, setter Masahiro Sekita and middle blocker Akihiro Yamauchi, but showed resilience to top a red-hot Cuban team 3-2 (18-25, 25-22, 25-23, 19-25, 22-20).

It was a rollercoaster of a match, which saw the Caribbean start ahead and the Asians take the next two sets before a Cuban triumph in the fourth set forced a tie-breaker. Cuba built a 14-11 lead and got close to the win, but saw Japan come back to deny nine match points before Nishida put the last ball down to claim the victory.

The heavily rotated Japan used 12 of the 14 players available and saw five of them get to double digits in scoring โ€“ outside hitters Shoma Tomita (13) and Tatsunori Otsuka (11), middle blocker Taishi Onodera (11) and opposites Kento Miyaura (12) and Nishida (11), who also fired five aces.

โ€œWe tried to play as a team and find the solutions together,โ€ Miyaura explained. โ€œIโ€™m happy that we managed to win such a big match here. We had a lot of changes in our lineup today, but it doesnโ€™t matter whoโ€™s on the court. Weโ€™re getting ready for the Olympics, which we know are going to be very difficult, but the experience weโ€™re getting here will certainly help us.โ€

Cuba were dominant at the net, outscoring Japan in kills (69 to 56) and blocks (20 to eight), but paid a steep price for their 39 errors. The Caribbean had the four players with the most points scored in the match in outside hitters Miguel รngel Lรณpez (25) and Marlon Yant (17) and middle blockers Robertlandy Simรณn and Javier Concepcion, with 14 each.

โ€œJapan are one of the top teams in the World Rankings and we tried to bring our best,โ€ Concepcion said….

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