International Volleyball



Wada steps in to inspire the historic victory

Japan celebrate during their VNL semifinal against Brazil

Japan secured their historic first medal in the women’s Volleyball Nations League by qualifying for Sunday’s final against Italy after a remarkable five-set semifinal victory over Brazil on Saturday. That win not only put an end to the South Americans’ 13-game winning streak since the start of the competition, but also stopped the tradition of Brazil beating Japan in five sets in each of their previous three encounters. In the other semifinal, Italy shut out Poland to advance to the VNL final for the second time in history, after winning gold in 2022.

Sunday’s gold medal showdown between Italy and Japan in Bangkok will start at 20:30 local time (13:30 UTC), while the bronze medal match between Poland and Brazil will serve off at 17:00 (10:00).

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22-year-old opposite Yukiko Wada, who subbed in for Kotona Hayashi during the first set of the late semifinal between Brazil and Japan, proved to be the big hero for the Asian squad as she led her teammates to a memorable 3-2 (26-24, 20-25, 25-21, 22-25, 15-12) victory. Wada produced a match-high 21 points towards Japan’s success to share the top scorer honours of the game with Brazilian star Gabriela Gumaraes (Gabi), with each of them putting away 20 spike kills and an ace. Captain Sarina Koga added another 18 points. The other Japanese outside hitter Mayu Ishikawa scored 16 points, including the match winner with a block-out swing, while middle blocker Airi Miyabe raised four kill blocks (two of them in the tie-breaker) towards an 11-point tally. Another four players reached the double digits on the Brazilian side: outside Julia Bergmann with 17, middle Thaisa Menezes with 16 (seven kill blocks!), opposite Rosamaria Montibeller with 16, and middle Ana Carolina Da Silva (Carol) with 14 (six kill blocks).

Yukiko Wada spikes past Julia Bergmann’s block

After Brazil managed to come back from a set down twice during the match with Japan, the Asian team stormed the fifth set on a 7-1 run. However, the South Americans battled back to catch up at 9-9, but never managed to step in front. With Japan defending spectacularly in the money time, they stayed in control until Ishikawa’s block-out kill closed the set and the match their way.

“Of course, it’s hard to talk now. It’s always difficult to play against Japan. They defend a lot. We also do,…

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