Japan finished the first pool phase of the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship 2022 with a straight-set victory over Argentina at the GelreDome Arena in Arnhem on Sunday to climb to the second place in the final Pool D standings. In a match that will also count towards the second phase Pool E standings, the Asian team claimed a 3-0 (25-17, 25-19, 25-17) win, enough to beat Brazil to the runners-up position on set ratio.

China, Japan and Brazil each finished Pool D on a 4-1 win-loss record and 12 points, and were separated only on set ratio. China topped the table on a 13-3 set ratio, followed by Japan on 12-4 and Brazil on 13-5. Argentina also advanced to the next phase as the fourth-placed team on a 2-3 win-loss record. The results of the matches between these four teams will be applied to the race in Pool E, which will be joined by the four teams advancing from Pool A – Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Puerto Rico.

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Japanese outside hitter Mayu Ishikawa fired four aces towards the match high of 25 points. Her cross-court teammate Arisa Inoue added another 14 points, all in attack, just as opposite Bianca Cugno did to become Argentina’s most prolific player of the match.


Japan celebrating the victory

Argentina started off with a blocking break point for 1-0 and quickly jumped into a 4-1 lead. An ace by opposite Kotona Hayashi brought Japan back to within one at 5-4. They caught up at 9-9 and took their first lead on a Hayashi attack for 11-10. The Asians kept building on the lead, with Ishikawa on fire in offence, and when she aced for set point the gap was already as wide as seven points. Inoue added another point with an off-the-block hit to close the set at 25-17.

An early Japanese lead in the second set was ended at 6-6 on an ace by Argentinean middle blocker Candelaria Herrera, but the Asians reacted with four points in a row to run away with a 10-6 advantage and never look back. All Argentina could do through the rest of the set was narrow their deficit down to one on a couple of occasions, but Japan never let them get any closer. Inoue and Ishikawa kept the fire burning in attack. The latter aced to extend the gap to six points at 23-16. Argentina’s efforts to stay in contention were crowned by a middle blocker Emilce Sosa ace for 23-19. At set point, Ameze Miyabe came in to take the serve and forced an overpass, which middle Nichika Yamada hammered for the 25-19 set win.

7-6 in the third set was the last time Argentina had the lead in the match. A four-point run by Japan included an ace from Yamada for 8-7 and gave the team a 10-7 lead. Japan’s serving was key to scoring the break points to widen the gap. Ishikawa added another ace for 13-9. Sub-in middle blocker Airi Miyabe, who had a great all-around performance, also put in a direct point from the end line for 16-11. Finally, another sub-in, Yoshino Sato, who came in for the serve, brought in match point with an ace and it was converted by Hayashi with a monster block for 25-17.

“It feels really nice. This was a really important win for us,” said Airi Miyabe after the game. “Normally I don’t play in the middle, so it was a huge challenge for me. And I’m so happy that I actually got to do something here, on this huge stage. In the next round, we are going to play a lot of great teams again, so we have to prepare well.”

Earlier on Sunday, Belgium hammered out a 3-0 (25-8, 25-19, 25-14) shutout of Cameroon in their last Pool A match. The last game of that pool, between the Netherlands and Italy, starts in Arnhem at 16:00 local time (14:00 GMT). The matches of Pool E will be played in another Dutch city, Rotterdam, starting on Tuesday.