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Final four starting to take shape as Japan pull off miracle comeback

 
Tokyo, Japan, May 18, 2016 - The final four teams that will earn tickets to Rio are starting to take shape, but only after a dramatic late twist in the final game of day four that left volleyball players and fans stunned.

Leading 9-3 in the final set against Japan, and on the verge of taking a major step towards qualifying for their first ever Olympics, Thailand somehow managed to throw the match away, picking up two red cards in a pulsating finish to the best game of the tournament so far.

The result could have serious consequences for both teams, with Thailand now needing to win all three of its final games to have a chance of achieving their Olympic dream.

Japan, by contrast, are now in the box seat, despite less than convincing performances at their last two outings.

Wednesday’s early matches, by contrast, were fairly dour affairs.

A sublime setting and serving performance from Laura Dijkema has helped steer The Netherlands to a 3-0 (25-22, 25-18, 25-21) win over the Dominican Republic, who is still chasing its first win of the tournament.

Even a stand out performance from Libero Brenda Castillo was not enough to help the Dominicans over the line, including in a third set when the team from the Caribbean threw away a 16-10 lead.

Korea, minus star player Kim Yeon-Koung, has had a comfortable 3-0 (25-16, 25-11, 25-21) win over Kazakhstan to further consolidate its chances of Olympic qualification.

Yeon-Koung started the match, but coach Lee Jungchul took her out of the match early in the second set to give her some much needed rest.

Kazakhstan also left two of its best players out of the match, with captain Radmila Beresneva and Kristina Anikonova spending the entire game watching on from the players pen.

An incredible all-round performance by Cristina Chirichella helped Italy to a comprehensive 3-0 (25-19, 25-16, 25-17) win over Peru to maintain its unbeaten record at the Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament in Japan.

In an outstanding team performance, Chirichella was the stand-out. At the net, at the service line, her play completely smothered a Peruvian side which did not win a single block or service ace point for the match.

While no team has yet definitely booked its place in Rio, and no team is yet completely out of the running, there is little doubt Italy will be one of the teams likely to qualify.

Likewise it looks highly likely both Kazakhstan and Dominican Republic, both winless so far, will not make the final cut.

On exposed form Korea, Netherlands and Japan are favourites to take up the remaining three qualifying positions, but with three matches remaining, no-one is prepared to rule out any eventuality.

The final game of day four showed nothing is ever certain in volleyball.



Top Scorer by Day
26 - Yeon-Koung Kim of Korea v Italy on May 14
22 - Angela Leyva of Peru v Dominican Republic on May 15
30 – Angela Leyva of Peru v Kazakhstan on May 17
24 – Saori Sakoda of Japan v Thailand on May 18
 
Top Scoring Performances
30 – Angela Leyva of Peru v Kazakhstan on May 17
26 - Yeon-Koung Kim of Korea v Italy on May 14
24 – Saori Sakoda of Japan v Thailand on May 18
 
Top Individual Serving Performances
5 – Kim Hee-Jin of Korea v Japan on May 17
4 – Cristina Chirichella of Italy v Peru on May 18
3 – Lee Jaeyeong of Korea v Kazakhstan on May 18
3 - Cristina Chirichella of Italy v Dominican Republic on May 15
3 – Laura Dijkema of Netherlands v Dominican Republic on May 18
 
Top Team Serving Performances
11 – Korea v the Netherlands on May 15
9 – Korea v Japan on May 17
9 – Korea v Kazakhstan on May 18
8 – The Netherlands v Kazakhstan on May 14
8 – Italy v Thailand on May 15
 
Top Individual Blocking Performances
8 – Kristina Anikonova of Kazakhstan v Peru on May 17
5 - Hyo-Jin Yang of Korea v Italy on May 14
5 – Yvon Belien of Netherlands v Thailand on May 17
5 – Nuekjang Thatdao of Thailand v Japan on May 18, 2016
5 – Thinkaow Pleumjit of Thailand v Japan on Mauy 18, 2016
 
Top Team Blocking Performances
16 – Kazakhstan v Peru on May 17
15 – Thailand v Japan on May 18
15 – Italy v Peru on May 18
13 – Korea v Italy on May 14
 
Highest Scoring Sets
29-27 – Korea v the Netherlands (1st set) on May 15
26-28 Thailand v Dominican Republic (2nd set) on May 14
28-26 Korea v Japan (1st set) on May 17 
 
Highest Scoring Matches
217 – Japan v Thailand 3-2 (20-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-23, 15-13)
190 - Thailand d Dominican Republic 3-1 (26-24, 26-28, 25-16, 25-20) on May 14

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