Japan (JPN) vs. USA (USA) men - Pool B #7303551

United States and Japan, who had qualified for next year’s Olympic Games on Saturday, treated the fans at the Yoyogi National Stadium in Tokyo, with a delightful five-set thriller in the last Pool B match of the men’s FIVB Road to Paris Volleyball Qualifiers on Sunday. The Americans came out on the winning end of this rollercoaster match to top the final pool standings undefeated.

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Thriving on some solid blocking, USA celebrated a victory over the home team, while losing the first point of the tournament, to finish on a 7-0 win-loss record and 20 points, leaving Japan in second place on 5-2 and 16.

Both coaches used this last game of the tournament as an opportunity to give more playing time to some members of the squads who had not been on the court as much over the previous eight days. Japan had the early control of the scoreboard, but after the 10th point, United States took over and cruised forward to take the first set. In the second set, the Americans had the initiative for a while, but the Japanese took over the scoreboard for good after the 17th point and pushed forward to level the score. A similar plot unveiled in set three to see the home team take a 2-1 lead in the match. In set four, the lead went back and forth before the Americans could take it by the narrowest of margins and level up. After 5-4 Japan’s way in the tie-breaker, USA went on a five-point run and never looked back, with Thomas Jaeschke swinging for the 15-12 match winner.

Blocking was the only point-scoring element, in which United States outplayed Japan (13-5 in stuffs). The two teams were level in attack (64-64 in spike kills), while the home team did better from the serving line (6-2 in aces) and in terms of unforced errors (27-30). Spiking at a 61% success rate, outside hitter Jaeschke led the winners with 19 points, including one ace and one block, followed by middle blocker David Smith with 14 points and outside Garrett Muagututia with 13. Japanese opposite Kento Miyaura hammered out a 27-point match high, including four aces and one block. Outsides Tatsunori Otsuka and Shoma Tomita added 17 and 14 points, respectively, for Japan.

Before that, Slovenia finished the tournament on a high note, with a shutout of Serbia, beating the opponents to the third place in the pool table. They finished on a 5-2 win-loss record and 15 points, a point below Japan. Opposite Rok Mozic led Slovenia with 14 points, all in attack at a 64% success rate. Middle Jan Kozamernik added another 13, including four blocks and an ace, while captain Tine Urnaut also reached the double digits with 11 points, including two aces. Serbian outside Miran Kujundzic scored a match-high 15 points, including three blocks. Opposite Drazen Luburic registered 13 points.

After a shutout of winless Tunisia, Türkiye also overtook Serbia in the final pool standings to finish fourth on 4-3 and 11 points, leaving the Serbians in fifth on 3-4 and nine. Within the three sets of the match, opposite Adis Lagumdzija produced an amazing 28 points, including five aces and a block. His success rate in attack was 65%. His younger brother Mirza Lagumdzija added another 14 points, while Tunisian opposite Mohamed Ben Youssef Lasgher finished with 16 points, including three aces.

Finland celebrated their second win of the tournament, a hard-fought over Egypt, to jump over the opponents in the final pool table. The Finns finished sixth on 2-5 and seven points, leaving the Egyptians behind in seventh on 2-5 and five. Finland’s outside Luka Marttila and Egypt’s opposite Reda Haikal shared the top scorer honours with 23 points each. Haikal’s tally included three aces, while Marttila had two aces and a kill block. Finnish opposite Joonas Jokela finished with 20 points towards the victory.