China sink Japan for 3rd straight victory

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Li Yingying (L) of China spikes the ball during the Phase 1 Pool D match between China and Japan at the 2022 Volleyball Women's World Championship in Arnhem, the Netherlands, Sept. 28, 2022. (Xinhua/Meng Dingbo)

China claimed its third consecutive win at the FIVB Women's Volleyball World Championship on Wednesday, beating Japan 28-26, 25-17, 29-27 to take a sole lead in the pool.

Rio Olympic champions overcame strong fightback from their opponents in the third set, coming back from 23-20 down and converting their second match point to wrap up the tough victory.

"We prepared well for this match. Our players carried out the tactics as planned and they showed a strong desire for a victory on the court," said Chinese head coach Cai Bin.

Japan won its last meeting with China at the Nations League in June when it came from one set down to secure a 19-25, 25-16, 25-23, 25-12 victory.

Both teams went into the toe-to-toe clash with two straight-set victories this time, as the first set turned out to be a thrilling one as expected. The two sides tied from 19-19 to 26-26, where China missed three set points.

Chinese outside hitter Wang Yunlu, a debutant at the World Championship, produced one of her best performances in the national team by adding two consecutive points, one for spike and another for block, to clinch the first-set victory for the team.

"We knew that they are a very good team with a great deal of resilience. As for the set point in the first set, I told myself that as an outside hitter, I should dare to attack. That's what I did, and I feel that I'm getting used to the big stage better and better," said the 26-year-old spiker, who had 11 points with 10 from the first two sets.

"Wang Yunlu is making big progress, especially after the Nations League," commented Cai.

Outside hitter Li Yingying had a team-high 19 points while four other Chinese players hit double-digits. Middle blocker Wang Yuanyuan played a big role in defense, contributing five blocks to her 13 points.

Not as close as the first and third set, the second was dominated by the Chinese team, as they only needed 20 minutes to surge to a 25-17 win.

"The second set were in our rhythm, we did well in blocks and won some key points in defense," Cai said.

World No. 7 Japan could have earned them a chance for the fourth set but squandered three set points. Another blow for them was that their captain and outside hitter Sarina Koga limped off the court, seeming to have injured her ankle.

In the other match of the pool, Brazil defeated fellow South American team Colombia 25-14, 25-12, 25-20.

Two-time champion China will face the Czech Republic on Friday, while Japan will take on Brazil.

"These three games are just the beginning. There are many more tough battles ahead. We have to play game by game, set by set, point by point, but now I feel that our team is getting better and better," said Cai.

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