Gold Coast, Australia, June 24, 2017 – Yuki Ishikawa notched 23 points to guide Japan in their nail-biting 3-2 (23-25, 25-18, 25-23, 22-25, 18-16) win over hosts Australia in the second semifinal of the 2017 FIVB Volleyball World League Group 2 Finals at Carrara Indoor Sports Stadium on Saturday.
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Japanese outside spiker Ishikawa had an all-around performance with 19 attacks, three blocks and an ace; while Australian hitters Nathan Roberts and Paul Carroll made 24 and 22 points, respectively, on a losing effort.
Japan have played their fourth consecutive five-setter in the World League, but the latest result gave them something to celebrate about as they made it through to the final after coming fourth in the group in the preliminary round.
Roberts and Ishikawa’s adrenaline-charged spikes decorated the first two sets, resulting to split victories. Australia drew first blood with a tight 25-23 win in the first set, while Japan bounced back with a comfortable 25-18 win in the second.
Japan led throughout the third period, but Australia kept on coming back as Roberts and Paul Carroll led the charge to close the gap. Ishikawa continued to fire through the Australian defence and gave Japan a 24-22 lead, but his service error allowed their rivals to move closer. However, Japan managed to end the set in their favour, with a well-placed middle hit 25-23.
After a point-by-point clash, Australia benefitted from Japan’s errors to put up a 13-10 lead in the fourth set. Australia unrelentingly sealed the net against the Japanese attackers, while Roberts nicked more points on the attack to extend their lead to 22-16. Japan tried to make a comeback at 24-22, but Roberts came to the rescue to seize Australia the fourth set win at 25-22.
The tie-break set was another point-by-point confrontation. The Japanese played excellent defence to execute an outstanding counter-attack that put them ahead 10-9, then Roberts saved his side with two attacks and an ace to snatch the lead 12-11. Japan regained the lead at 13-12, until Masahiro Yangida’s service blunder tied the score at 13-all. Japan scored on a block touch, then Haku Ri delivered the final point that secured the match victory 18-16.