Korea (KOR) vs. Japan (JPN) women - Pool 6 - Preliminary Phase #16608312

The hall in Fukuoka during the Japan v Korea game

Favourites USA, Italy and Japan did not allow any surprises in their first matches of women’s 2024 Volleyball Nations League competition week three in Fukuoka and celebrated straight-set wins over France, Canada and Korea, respectively. The Netherlands, however, produced what could be considered a surprising result against reigning world champions Serbia. The latter are playing in Fukuoka without their top stars, but the Dutch still gained an important 9.37 points towards the FIVB World Ranking to widen their advantage ahead of Canada in the neck-and-neck race for a spot at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

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Hosts Japan delighted their fans with a 3-0 (25-16, 25-16, 25-23) victory in an all-Asian clash with Korea to start their home campaign on the winning track. In Wednesday’s late match, three Japanese players led their teams to success, scoring in the double digits. Outside hitter Mayu Ishikawa was Japan’s best scorer with 16 points, including two kill blocks. Her cross-court teammate and captain Sarina Koga added another 15, also raising two kill blocks, while opposite Kotona Hayashi finished with 14, including one ace. Korea’s Jiyun Jeong came up with 17 points to top the charts. Japan are well on their way to qualify for Paris 2024, as well as to the VNL Finals. They are fourth in the current VNL standings on a 7-2 win-loss record and 21 points, while the Koreans are 14th on 1-8 and 4.

In Tuesday’s opening match of the pool in Fukuoka, opposite Jordan Thompson led the United States to a 3-0 (25-15, 26-24, 25-20) sweep of their game against France. Thompson delivered a 20-point match high, including two aces and a kill block. Her French counterpart Lucille Gicquel also hammered an ace to share the team’s top scorer honours with outside hitter and captain Helena Cazaute on 12 points apiece. The Americans improved to 5-4 and 16, occupying seventh place in the standings, right above the line for the Finals in Bangkok. The hosts of this summer’s Olympic Games are in 15th place on 1-8 and 4, slightly below Korea on point ratio

Also on Tuesday, Italy showed no intention of slowing down in their flights to the Olympic Games and to the VNL Finals and hammered out a convincing 3-0 (25-16, 25-15, 25-14) shutout of Canada. This result cost the North Americans 6.18 World Ranking points in their effort to surpass the Netherlands for the last ticket to Paris. Italy’s star opposite Paola Egonu was above all with three aces and four kill blocks towards the match high of 18 points. Outside hitters Caterina Bosetti and Myriam Sylla also dipped into the double digits, with 11 and 10 points, respectively. So did Canada’s best scorer Kiera Van Ryk, who finished with 13 points, all kills in attack. Italy are now third in the table on 7-2 and 22, while Canada are currently in eighth place on 5-4 and 15, just below the cut-off for the Finals.

In Wednesday’s early match in Fukuoka, the Netherlands achieved a 3-1 (25-20, 25-21, 18-25, 25-12) win over Serbia and widened the distance from Canada in the World Ranking to 17.77 points. In the VNL standings, however, they are still below the Canadians on set ratio, also on 5-4 and 15 in ninth place. Serbia are 10th on 3-6 and 9, floating away from the VNL Finals qualification zone. 22-year-old outside Nova Marring led the Dutch with 17 points, including three blocks and two aces, followed by cross-court teammate Jolien Knollema with 14 and opposite Elles Dambrink with 13. Serbian opposite Vanja Bukilic topped the charts with 21 points, assisted by outside hitters Vanja Ivanovic with 15 (three aces) and Mina Mijatovic with 11 (two blocks).

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