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China Books Volleyball Semi-final Berth After Beating Japan 3-0
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China booked the first women's volleyball semi-final position on Tuesday after trouncing Japan 3-0 in the quarterfinal round of the Athens Olympics.


China completed a clinical three-set win over its arch-rival in Asia in one hour and 39 minutes.


"We have faced Japan five times this year, this is the tough stone, but it is a bit easier than we thought," said Chen Zhonghe, head coach of China, "Japan's fast attacks caused us much trouble."


Japan got 44 points from attacks while China had 36, but Japan also had 23 errors in the game.


"We made less mistakes, and we won the game," said Chen.


Shoichi Yanagimoto, head coach of Japan, said that "we lost because we are a very young team. We saw many mature performances from the Chinese side. Experience made the differences."


"But we have four years to go, half of this team members can participate in the Beijing Olympics. I think they will be much experienced at that time and we can face the world," said Yanagimoto.


Kana Oyama led both teams with 16 points, and Miyuki Takasashi added 9 for the Japanese side.


"Kana is a very good player. We are waiting for Kana to grow up, she will be the key player for Japan," said Yanagimoto.


China, who ranked fifth at the Sydney Olympics four years ago, made a good start in the first set, opening a 3-0 lead in one minute.


Japan replied by improving their fast-attacking to lead into the first technical time-out 8-6.


However, China answered with an 8-2 run and it was left to WangLina to claim the final point of the set for China 25-20.


In the second set, Japan improved its volleyball for a 7-3 lead.But it wasn't long before China found its fast attacks and high blocks again to tie at 12-12.


Oyama scored all Japan's last four points during the final five minutes but could not stop China from closing the set 25-22.


Lagging behind with two sets, the Japanese side still put a brave face in the third. The scores were tied from 1-1 to 15-15 before China gained the ascendancy.


With Wang Lina's three points, China launched a 5-0 run. A wonderful spike from Zhang Ping gave China a 23-19 advantage and her serving made China finish the match 25-20.


Wang scored 12 points for China while Zhang also added 12, YangGao 11.


The victory put China into the semi-finals and to play the winner between Italy and Cuba, which will be held later Tuesday.


"I didn't assume that we could enter the semi-final with such arelative easy way," said Chen, "China was beaten during the Grand Prix early on August, and I was quite worried that the players couldn't recover from the defeat."


"But now I can say that China team has already reached its peak," said Chen.


(Xinhua News Agency August 25, 2004) 


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