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AVC U23 Day 2 Roundup: Japan’s near fall and The Great Wall of China

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Yesterday was an amazing day for volleyball, especially for the Philippines who grabbed a glorious win over Kazakhstan. The Filipinas, however, weren’t the only ones who took care of business as some of Asia’s perennial volleyball powerhouses delivered imposing victories that showed why they are so feared. We run through all the other matches that went down in a day that we’ll remember fondly for years to come.

Match 1: Efficient Korea dominates flat-footed Uzbekistan 25-17, 25-8, 25-7.Tiebreaker Times AVC U23 Day 2 Roundup: Japan's near fall and The Great Wall of China

In their first match of the tournament, the Koreans had a field day against the lumbering Uzbekistan side. Playing without a Libero, Uzbekistan was incredibly slow to any reception or attack that didn’t fall within arms-length of them, allowing Korea to go 44 for 79 (55%) with their attacks and to throw down 18 aces, tied with Japan for most in a match in the tournament so far.

Uzbekistan, however, showed great promise in blocking as their height bothered Korean attackers but that is really all they’ve been able to do well in their two matches. Their passing and setting were below par, and they were incredibly slow in general. Their pool mates were ahead of the curve in terms of sheer volleyball know-how.

The Koreans are a tall, fundamentally-sound team that should give their Thailand a run for their money in their meeting today. They have dynamite scorers in open hitters, Lee Soyoung and Go Yerim, who both had 18 markers in the victory, and opposite hitter, Kim Miyoun who dropped 10 points. It should be interesting to see if they keep up with the Thais’ faster pace and solid floor and net defense.

Match 3: China towers over India 25-9, 25-13, 25-17Tiebreaker Times AVC U23 Day 2 Roundup: Japan's near fall and The Great Wall of China

Speaking of tall teams, the Chinese have height to spare in all positions as well as uncanny quickness and court sense. China severely bothered India’s best attacker, Nirmala, limiting the open hitter to just 10 points on a 9 for 40 attacking clip.

Dominating as the win might have seemed evident, it was clear China was saving it’s best players for latter matches. They religiously shuffled their players in and out of the match, thus making it hard to get a feel for their peak performance. But they couldn’t hide their supreme length and athleticism as it seemed everyone on the roster had middle blocker height and all-around volleyball skills. Their attackers easily went over India’s blocks and their quick attacks were especially devastating.

Expect much of the same lineup poker face from China in their match against the smaller, less-skilled Macau. China is ranked first in the FIVB U20 rankings and we might only get to see why by the time they face stiffer competition in the Top 8.

Match 4: Japan escapes feisty Chinese Taipei 24-26, 26-24, 25-23, 25-10Tiebreaker Times AVC U23 Day 2 Roundup: Japan's near fall and The Great Wall of China

Pinoy Pride aside, this was the best match of the tournament so far. The first three sets was just an endless back-and-forth of cat-quick floor defense and just-as-quick offensive transitions. It was volleyball poetry; the first to blink, loses.

From the onset of the match, it was clear Taipei had a set gameplan to take down the favorite Japan. They knew where Japan liked to attack, and had their players set at the perfect spots to properly work through Japan’s attempts. The Japanese looked flummoxed when Taipei forced them to look for other options. In the first three sets, Japan only had a sizable lead in the first set when they led by four during a good chunk of the set. However, Taipei quickly erased the lead and dragged them into a deuce which Japan lost off two consecutive attack errors.

Taipei did an excellent job in varying their attacks early in the match, but Japan always had a counter and easily got side-outs. Japan slowly made adjustments and managed to only squeak by Taipei late in the third and second set. By the fourth set, Taipei was visibly from having lost two consecutive close sets as their reception and digging eluded them allowing Japan to close out the match with relatove ease.

Japan team captain Muranaga Nao and Mabashi Kaori both topped the match in scoring with 18 points apiece. While Taipei pulled double-digit outings from three of their players as Chen Tzu-Ya and Tseng Wan-Ling both had 11 points while Lee Tzu-Ying contributed 10 markers.

The match was also a perfect example of how pivotal communication is in volleyball, with both teams constantly asserting themselves, even during dead balls. The post-point celebrations were incredibly interesting as well; Japan had their cute everyone-gets-high-tens routine while Taipei opted for blood-curdling, happy screeches.

Japan now tops Pool C while Taipei will most likely drub Maldives in their match today to take the second seed. The Philippines will most likely face both teams in the following classification phase of the tournament.

A few other notes from Day 2:

– When asked about who they saw as threats in the Philippine Team, opposing coaches almost unanimously pointed out “Number 2” first and then gush about “Number 3″‘s height.

– Japanese head coach Abo Kiyoshi, summed up how lucky the National team is to have a crowd like the Filipino’s do. He said that Japan also draws huge volleyball crowds, but the atmosphere the crowd projects are totally different. If you try to YouTube Japanese volleyball club games, you’ll see his point. Japanese crowds aren’t loud cheerers, almost meek to an extent. Pinoys are the total opposite: scream-their-lungs-out types who treat their volleyball players like their local pop stars.

– It would be nice if the arena played pop music from thr countries that are participating. They played a few K-Pop songs during Korea’s warmups and a couple Japanese songs during the Taipei-Japan tiff, why not play Uzbekistan pop songs? It would be that signature hospitable touch we Pinoys are known for.

Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball - from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado's setting.

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