Japan (JPN) vs. Germany (GER) women - Pool 1 - Preliminary Phase #15591556

Mayu Ishikawa in attack

Japan registered their third consecutive victory in Volleyball Nations League 2024. On Friday afternoon in Antalya, Sarina Koga and Mayu Ishikawa led the team to a straight-set win over Germany to widen the distance between the two teams in the heated race for Olympic tickets through the FIVB World Ranking.

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The 3-0 (25-21, 25-15, 25-22) outcome of the match took 5.47 ranking points away from Germany and handed them to Japan. Both teams kept their pre-match positions in the chart – Japan above the cut-off line in number eight and Germany below in number 12. Japan are also on top of the current VNL standings on a 3-0 win-loss record and eight points, leaving the Germans in 11th place on 1-2 and 3.

The better production in offence and the fewer unforced errors in the match made the difference in favour of the Asian team. Outside hitter and captain Sarina Koga produced a match-high 20 points, including two aces and two kill blocks. Her cross-court teammate Mayu Ishikawa contributed another 18 points, while opposite Kotona Hayashi finished with 12. Middle blocker Camilla Weitzel, with 13 points, and opposite Kimberly Drewniok, with 12, were Germany’s most prolific players of the match.

Japan’s error-free performance during the first set gave them the edge, after giving away only one point to the opponents with an unforced mistake... That and mainly Ishikawa, who was on fire in attack to contribute eight points towards a 25-21 close. In a one-sided second set, Japan once again gave up only a single point on an own error, but also clearly dominated in all the other scoring elements. Sarina Koga led the way with two aces and a kill block towards a six-point set tally, but in the end it was an attack on two by setter Koyomi Iwasaki that closed it off at 25-15. Japan opened an early lead in set three and extended it to as many as six points. The Germans kept fighting to get back to within one, but never quite managed to catch up completely. Koga and Ishikawa fired another 15 points combined, but it was Hayashi, who spiked Japan’s last two in the match to put an end to it at 25-22.

Japan (JPN) vs. Germany (GER) women - Pool 1 - Preliminary Phase #15589631

Koyomi Iwasaki sets

“Japan played a really great block-defence. It was really difficult to score. We tried our best, but in the end they had every ball. We kept fighting through the end, but Japan did a better job than us,” commented Germany’s middle Anastasia Cekulaev after the match. “Japan are probably playing the quickest volleyball in the world, but we had a lot of good touches and sometimes we did a really good job. Nothing is over until it’s over, so we keep our heads up and keep going.”

“We haven’t qualified yet, so we have to play our best game every single time,” said Japan’s Airi Miyabe. “I think winning in three sets was really important.”

The two teams will be in action again on Sunday, with Germany taking on the Netherlands at 14:00 local time (11:00 UTC), and Japan facing Poland three hours later.

After Germany lost to Italy in four sets on Thursday, Japan hammered out an emphatic 3-0 (25-13, 25-15, 25-15) shutout of Bulgaria, which brought them another 2.74 points towards the World Ranking. Hayashi and Koga led the team to success with 14 and 13 points, respectively.

In Thursday’s late match, defending champions Türkiye achieved their first win of this year’s campaign, 3-1 (25-14, 23-25, 25-23, 25-18) over the Netherlands. That loss cost the Dutch 2.44 points in their drive to stay above the cut-off line for Olympic qualification. Melissa Vargas was the best scorer of the match with 27 points, including three aces and two blocks. Ebrar Karakurt added another 20, while lkin Aydın finished with 16. Anne Buijs was the only Dutch player to reach the double digits with 15 points.

Next in Antalya is the match between France and Poland at 17:00 (14:00), followed by Italy and Bulgaria at 20:00 (17:00). The VNL competition day will also continue over in Rio de Janeiro with the three Pool 2 games of the day: Serbia v Thailand at 14:00 local time (17:00 UTC), China v Canada at 17:30 (20:30) and Brazil v USA at 21:00 (00:00).

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