Trieste, Italy, October 1, 2014 - The FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Italy 2014 returned to action on Wednesday as the second round heated up with key battles as teams fight to be in the top three in their respective Pools E and F to reach the Final Round. Croatia opened their second tournament on the right foot after they beat Japan 3-2 (18-25, 25-23, 25-27, 25-20, 15-8) in Pool E, in front of a passionate crowd at PalaTrieste.
• Croatia and Japan met for the second time at the World Championship.
• Croatia have won their last three matches at this World Championship and won a record-equalling third in a row for the first time since 1998. Back then, their third straight win came against Japan.
• Japan have lost three of their first six matches in this year’s tournament. In 2010, they remained unbeaten in the first five, while losing only one in 2006.
• After this match Croatia have five points in Pool E, Japan have six.
Yukiko Ebata topped the winners’ scoring with 22 points, followed by Saori Kimura, 18 points. Other three Japan players reached double digits. Croatia top scorer was Maja Poljak with 18 points, then came Senna Usic with 17 points. Two more players gained double figures.
Japan slammed down the first kill of the day and took a 5-2 lead. Croatia closely followed. Thanks to Sanja Popovic’s spike and Senna Usic Jogunica’s ace Croatia jumped ahead 11-9. At 11-10, Croatia called the first video challenge of the match, but to no use. At the second technical timeout, it became a seesaw battle until Senna Usic fired a spike long as Japan lead 16-19. Japan put pressure on Croatia, with attacks and blocks and wrote down a 25-15 first set victory.
At the start of the second set Croatia requested video challenge again, this time to their advantage. They led 4-3. Japan answered with four points displayed by Ebata Yukiko and two points by Saori Sakoda and took the lead on the first technical timeout 7-8. At 11-all, both teams could not take a clear lead. Cheered on by their numerous fans, Croatia prevailed at the second timeout 16-15. Japan had a row of four winning points and went to ahead 19-18. After continuing point-by-point, Usic’s spike clinched the set 25-23 for Croatia.
As in the last, the third set started in a balanced way and ensued on a point-by-point exchange by both teams. It was 9-all, 10-all, 11-all with neither team gave in. With Ebata’s massive block, Japan jumped to 15-12. A while later Croatia regained parity at 20-all. After thrilling rallies Kimura’s kill wrapped the set 27-25 for Japan.
The fourth set started with a short gap in the score, and then Japan’s Risa Shinnabe laid a heavy kill at the right side of the net to make 7-4. Croatia regained momentum to nail the result at 13-all. With a lively coach on the sideline, Croatia earned their way back, with determination, to 19-14. Japan were not defeated yet and they put four points in their hat until 18-20. The last part of set No. 4 was dominated by Croatia. They gained a comfortable lead and closed it out at 25-20 to send the game to a tiebreaker.
In the tiebreak, after a 4-0 start for Croatia, Japan fought back to 5-3. However, at changeover Croatia seemed to be on the top 8-6. Samanta Fabris’s great kill put Croatia into 10-7. Then Mia Jerkov made three fierce spikes in a row for the 13-8. An ace moved Croatia to the first match ball and they took it 15-8 and the match 3-2.