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Korea secures bronze with surprising sweep of Japan

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The Koreans have offensively overpowered almost every opponent they faced in the tournament. Today, against a sound Japanese defense, the Koreans pulled out all the stops and prevailed in three tight sets 26-24, 25-13, 25-15, and claimed bronze in the AVC U23 Tournament at the PhilSports Arena, Pasig City.

All-tournament long, the Koreans have been carried by their outside hitters, Lee Soyoung, Ha Hyejin, An Hyeri, and Yerim Go. This match was no different as the four produced 44 of KOR’s 57 points. Lee Soyoung continued her all-around performance the entire tournament, contributing 14 points, 11 excellent receptions, and six digs. Lefty opposite hitter, An Hyeri, hopped off the bench and provided the offensive spark KOR needed to overcome the Japanese, matching Soyoung’s effort with 14.

The Japanese, on the other hand, whiffed on a lot of their opportunities from the service line, surrendering multiple errors. Japan also had the leg up for much of the first set until their servoce reception fell apart. Leading by five points, 16-11, Japan began to give up errors as Korea’s powerful attackers caught fire. Korea tied the set and eventually vaulted into set point 24-22. Japan got last ditch boost from Kaori Mabashi and Nanaka Sakamoto who teamed up to score on consecutive attacks and force a deuce. However, Japan blew the opportunity and coughed up two straight errors from there, giving Japan the set.

The second set unfolded the same way only Korea made their run to catch up much earlier as they took a hefty 16-11 lead into the set’s second technical timeout. KOR’s An Hyeri worked the Japanese blockers perfectly from there to keep the Japanese at bay. With Korea at set point, 24-21, JPN made another lage run to try to seal the set but KOR’s Lee Soyoung scored off a block before JPN could send the set into another deuce.

The third set saw a deflated Japanese team get blown out the water. “We lost our motivation yesterday, after the loss to Thailand. It was a very tiring match and we just didn’t have enough energy today,” Japan Head Coach, Hideyoshi Abo said.

Japan was undefeated in the tournament until the last two days of competition, which unfortunately relegates them to fourth. Korea only owed their two losses to the favorite Chinese team.

The Scores

Korea (3) – Lee 14, An 14, Ha 11, Moon 7, Go 5, Cho 2, Kim 2, Jeong 2, Noh 0, Gong 0, Kim Y. (L)

Japan (0) – Mabashi 13, Sakamoto 12, Imamura 10, Namba 4, Kodama 4, Yamauchi 2, Inoue 2, Miura 1, Higane 0, Kojima (L)

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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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