South Korea and the United States emerged with triumphant quarterfinal victories on Wednesday at Ariake Arena and claimed the first two available spots in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 women’s semifinals. The Asian team will take on the winners of the quarterfinal betweeen Brazil and ROC while USA will be pitted against the winners of the quarterfinal between Serbia and Italy.

Kim Yeon Koung’s 28-point performance marked Korea’s return to the final four of the Olympic Games, following their 3-2 (17-25, 25-17, 28-26, 18-25, 15-13) win over Turkey.

Kim is one of the three remaining members of the Korea team that played at the London 2012 Olympics, where they finished fourth overall. In their last three appearances, Korea have won bronze at Montreal 1976 – their first and only Olympic medal in volleyball.

“We made it to the semifinals of the London Olympics and it has been nine years, so it has been a long time. This means a lot to me and the entire team. And since we have two matches left, I will do my best end our campaign in good terms,” Kim said.

Park Jeongah, Yang Hyo Jin and Kim Heejin contributed 16, 11 and nine points, while Meryem Boz, Eda Erdem and Zehra Gunes made 24, 15 and 14 in the losing effort.

“We lost a great opportunity because we could not keep our level of reception. If we had, we would have managed the game in a better way. Korea took advantage of our weaknesses and we had many. They took a lot of risky serves and it always worked in their favour. Their defence was too good,” Turkey coach Giovanni Guidetti said.

Turkey won the first set as Cansu Ozbay set up Meryem Boz and Zehra Gunes to convert points from the left-flank and the middle with little resistance from the opposition.

Korea responded with victories in the next two sets, as the Asian powerhouse’s floor defence was on point, serving as a catalyst for their great counter-attacking offence led by Kim, Park Jeongah, Yang Hyo Jin and Kim Heejin.

In these two sets, the Koreans made a quick win in the second, then eluded their rivals with a two-point margin from back-to-back hits by Park Jeongah in the extended third set.

In the fourth set, Turkey’s front row players put on a positive performance with strong hits. They implemented a tough wall and built a huge cushion. The Turkish team forced the tie-break set from an Ebrar Karakurt spike.

Turkey had a three-point edge in the fifth set, but Korea’s patience in offence and defence paid off as they managed to trim the lead. In the next few plays, Turkey’s offence slowed down as they suffered on a string of errors.

Kim Heejin gave Korea the lead at 9-8, but Turkey responded with back-to-back points to gain another advantage. However, Kim Yeon-Koung stepped in and tied the score at 10-all, then scored four more points including the match-winner at 15-13.

“We had the chance to meet the Turkish team at the VNL before the Olympics and we were able to evaluate and prepare for this matchup with them. The VNL experience really helped in this match with Turkey,” Kim Yeon-Koung remarked.

“In team sports there is nothing a player can do by herself to win, so the team has to become one and that is my role in the team as leader, to bring the team together.”

In the second match, USA cruised past their NORCECA rivals the Dominican Republic 3-0 (25-11, 25-20, 25-19).

USA were led by Annie Drews who hit solidly and scored all her 21 points from the three-metre line, Michelle Bartsch-Hackley and Haleigh Washington helped out with 13 and 10 markers. On the Dominican side, Brayelin Martinez was the lone player who breached the double-digit mark with 16 points.

The quarterfinal match highlighted the return of opposite Jordan Thompson and setter Jordyn Poulter in the USA jersey, who gave a boost to the team even though the two did not see action against the Dominicans.

“It feels good to be back. It’s incredible how many trainers are here to support us to get better quickly. It’s amazing what 24 hours can do with the support that we have. Our trainer has been huge on the clock with both me and JT (Thompson). Our ankles are both feeling pretty good,” Poulter said.

USA played with a quick tempo and stunned the Dominican defenders to secure the opening set with a huge 25-11 margin.

The Dominicans fought hard and got their scoring going, but USA still outmanoeuvred their rivals with their consistency on the attack, service and block.

“The Dominican Republic are a great team and they have a lot of offensive weapons and they are physical. They just keep getting better every time we see them. The big thing for us is we made a plan, we stayed diligent and had the discipline to execute the plan point by point. We did a nice job doing that.” Drews said.