Japan showed up when it mattered and upended Vietnam in four sets, 25-17, 25-22, 34-36, 25-10, to move into the battle for the championship in the 2022 PNVF AVC Cup for Women, Sunday evening at PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.
Mizuki Tanaka proved strong against the taller Vietnamese blockers, ending with 19 attacks, to go with one block and one service ace. Yuki Nishikawa added 19 markers — six of which came in that close-out fourth — on 16 spikes, two blocks, and three service aces.
Nishikawa shared that they just shook off that third-set meltdown and started the fourth set with renewed energy. She said, “We weren’t too sad about losing the fourth set. But then for the fourth set, we were like ‘Let’s go! We need more energy.’ and put more power on the plays, and just really focus on the set.”
That mindset eventually saw the Hinotori Nippon mount a huge advantage in the fourth set, and with Nishikawa and Tanaka working, the side ultimately sealed its place in another Cup final against rivals China.
Like how they played all tournament long, Japan leaned on their relentless defense on the floor to deny Vietnam points in transition. Instead, it was the white shirts that had their opportunities to counterattack.
The lead grew to as huge as six in the second set at 16-10 for Japan at the second technical timeout, forcing Vietnam to go to its bench and correct its passing lines. Japan, though, still found creases in the same defense and eventually emerged with the 2-0 set advantage.
Japan continued to pounce on Vietnam’s defense with well-placed kills to lead 17-10 in the third and final set before succumbing to Tran Thi Thank Thuy’s serve for three straight instances. It was a sign of things to come as that Southeast Asian side turned to its own defense to force a fourth, following that huge fightback in the third.
Middle blocker Hiroyo Yamanaka was a force for Japan at the net, rejecting six hits from the opponents, to go with five kills and three service aces.
Tran carried Vietnam as per usual with 29 huge points on 24 spikes, two blocks, and three service aces, while middle blocker Hoang Thi Kieu Trinh was the only other Vietnamese in double digits with 15 points on 13 attacks, one block, and one ace.
The stage is set for the clash between China and Japan in the rematch of the 2018 final match on Monday at 7 p.m. Meanwhile, Vietnam and Thailand will battle for the bronze earlier in the day at 4 p.m.
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