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Tiebreaker Times

2022 AVC Cup for Women

AVC: Nishikawa tows Japan past Iran to book semis slot

Yuki Nishikawa and Japan bucked their first set lost so far and denied Iran in four, 25-23, 25-21, 26-28, 25-16, to book a ticket into the semifinals of the 2022 PNVF AVC Cup for Women, Saturday evening at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.

The prolific outside hitter ended with 18 points, seven of which came from that hard-fought third set, to end with 17 attacks and one service ace. Mizuki Tanaka was also an able option, especially in that fourth-set closeout, finishing with 13 markers on 12 spikes and one block.

Japan turned to its service game and plays in transition to put the game away for good in the fourth set, limiting the Iranians to just eight points. The East Asians’ relentless defense also forced the opponents to cough up nine errors in that fourth set beatdown.

The third-set setback was the first time Japan dropped a set, and hence, this is the only time in the Cup, so far, that Hinotori Nippon was dragged into a fourth frame.

“Volleyball is a game of rhythm; sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down. So, this time, when our rhythm was not so good, we tried to compete as a team and worked together, so that helped us win the game,” captain and setter Mika Shibata said about how they pulled through against Iran through outside hitter Hawi Okumu Oba, who was acting as her interpreter.

Japan went into a rough start in the first two sets, but it turned into its defense, particularly in its passing, the points came in at the opportune time for the 2-0 sets advantage.

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Iran, though, turned to its advantage at the net, most particularly in the third set. With better timing at the net and more precise lines on defense, the West Asian eventually gave the 2018 runners-up its first set loss, causing the latter to rethink its plan in the fourth set.

Hiroyo Yamanaka provided a force at the net with eight points on two blocks and six attacks, while fellow middle blocker Asuka Hamamatsu added five markers on one block and four spikes.

Middle blocker Pouran Zare was solid at the net for Iran, scoring most of her 15 markers in the third set win, while Mahsa Kadkhoda also finished with 15 points on 11 spikes, two blocks, and two service aces. Maedeh Borhani Esfahani added eight markers on seven attacks and one service ace.

“Vietnam is a good offensive team, so we have to work hard on our defense. And also the start of the game will be really important for us, so tomorrow, we have to concentrate on how to do well at the start,” Shibata said on what Japan needed to do against Vietnam in the semifinal match on Sunday at 7 p.m.

Iran, on the other hand, will take on Chinese Taipei in the 5th-8th classification match earlier in the day.

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Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.

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