Slovenia and Japan on Collision Course After Group 2 Semifinal Wins

2017 FIVB WORLD LEAGUE – Group 2 Semifinals

  • Group 2
  • June 24th, 2017
  • Gold Coast, Australia
  • FIVB World League Semifinals
  • Schedule/Results

With just four teams remaining in Group 2, the semifinal round was an opportunity to play in the Group 2 Championship match. Slovenia, who had the top mark in pool play came out in straight sets over Netherlands for a chance at the title.

Japan and Australia was the third meeting of the two teams with each team winning one prior. Japan won a thrilling five-set match over host-Australia to advance to the final round.

Slovenia will now face Japan with a chance at promotion to Group 1 for the next FIVB World League. The teams met in group play as Japan won in five sets – Slovenia’s only loss. The third place match will feature Netherlands and Australia. Both matches will start tomorrow at 13:40 and 16:10 local time (UTC +10:00).

SLOVENIA DEF. NETHERLANDS 3-0 (25-15, 32-30, 25-20)

This semifinal match was a meeting of the top two teams from pool play of Group 2. Slovenia went 8-1 with 24 points, while Netherlands finished right behind at 7-2 with 21 points. It was the side who finished a win better who dominated two sets and won a tight second.

Slovenia jumped out early with a 13-4 lead, with the advantage continuing on throughout the set. Eventually with set point and a comfortable lead, Slovenia blocked a Deutsche attack to come out on top 25-15 and a 1-0 lead.

Set two was tight throughout, with Slovenia slightly ahead at 18-16. Netherlands responded and Wouter Ter Maat, who led the Deutsche side with 14 points, threw down an ace to tie at 19. Neither side could pull away for a two-point advantage from there with each team taking a chance at set point. Finally, at 31-30, Slovenia’s Tine Urnaut put down a kill for the set win. It was one of Urnaut’s 15 points – good for second on the team to only Mitja Gasparini‘s 18.

The momentum pushed Slovenia to another early start in set three at 16-10. Netherlands fought back to tighten the score at 21-19, but were quickly countered by Slovenia winning four of five to take the set 25-20 and win the match 3-0.

“Our plan was to really do well on service and after that on block,” Slovenia head coach Slobodan Kovac said to FIVB. “In this match we also played well on reception, but I think we won because we were mentally tough.”

Slovenia now heads to the Group 2 Championship match tomorrow at 16:10 local time (UTC +10:00) while Netherlands moves on to the third place match to redeem the loss today. For Slovenia, they now have a chance to win Group 2 after winning Group 3 in 2016.

 

JAPAN DEF. AUSTRALIA 3-2 (23-25, 25-18, 25-23, 22-25, 18-16)

Both of these teams were evenly matched in pool play. While Australia went 6-3 to Japan’s 5-4, both countries totaled 16 points and defeated each other one time. In fact, the last time they met, Australia won in five sets. This time though, Japan got revenge.

In a tight first, Australia was led by Nathan Roberts and Paul Carroll as they just pulled ahead in the set 25-23, for a 1-0 lead. Roberts finished with a match-high 24 points while Carroll had 22. No other Australian player had more than five.

It was all Japan in the second set, as they held a steady lead throughout. After jumping ahead 14-6, Japan would go on to win the set 25-18, tying the match at 1-1 and giving Japan momentum for set number three.

After pulling a bit ahead and leading through the entirety of the set, things got tied in the third for Japan. They led 23-22 and a Yuki Ishikawa ace, one of his team-best 23 points, put Japan up 24-22. After he had a serve error to make it 24-23, a kill from the Japanese side just put them ahead in the match 2-1.

Behind the home crowd, Australia rallied back in the fourth. They led 13-10 through 23 points and eventually tacked onto the lead to make it 22-16. This time Japan made a late comeback, tightening things to 24-22 before Roberts finished off the set for Australia.

This was the fourth consecutive five set match for Japan. They showed their experience in the tight situations with Australia and themselves going back-and-forth with a spot in the title on the line. It was actually Australia leading 12-11, but two straight for Japan flipped the lead. As the two teams exchanged points, Japan was eventually ahead 17-16. Haku Ri had his sixth and final point to put Australia away and push Japan to the final game against Slovenia.

Japan had just one more kill, which came on that final point. Beyond that, the stats were very similar with Japan holding an edge in blocks (11-8) and aces (6-4).

“In the first set we led in the game but we were defeated. In the next two sets we prevailed although it was not very easy to win the second set. Our teamwork pulled us through in that set,” Japanese captain Hideomi Fukatsu told FIVB. “We have one more match to win. That is our goal and is what we are going to work on tomorrow. We know that the Australian block was very tough; but we have to be more aggressive against Slovenia because they are also a tough team.”

Japan advances to face Slovenia in the final. They met in week two of pool play and were the only team to take down Slovenia so far, as they did so in five. They’ll to repeat that while Australia still has a lot to play for in the third place match as they’ll have the home crowd to support them.

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