Tokyo, Japan, May 20, 2016 - Korea has blocked its way to a hard fought 3-1 (18-25, 25-22, 25-14, 25-21) win against a brave Peru, inspired by an outstanding individual performance from Yang Hyo-Jin.
Hyo-Jin was part of a defensive wall that blunted wave after wave off attacks from A Peruvian side which needed to win to improve its chance of Olympic qualification.
Teenager Angela Leyva was outstanding for Peru in the opening set, not just with her rocket-like spikes, but also her menacing serve and, most importantly, her digging. 19-year-old Leyva was throwing herself around the court like a Libero.
Speaking of which, Peru’s Libero, Vanessa Palacios, has considerably enhanced her reputation during the qualifiers, and in the opening set against Korea she took it up another notch.
Captain Mirtha Uribe continued to lead from the front, while Carla Rueda was everywhere, as Peru took an early 6-2 lead and refused to yield, taking out the opening set with a shock 25-18 scoreline.
For Korea, Kim Yeon-Koung was working hard, but without her usual return on the scoreboard, while Hyo-Jin finished the set with four points.
Having shocked its much more fancied opponents in the opening set, Peru picked up in the second set where it left off, moving to an 8-5 lead. But while Leyva was continuing to inspire Peru, 190cm Hyo-Jin was lifting her team back into the match.
Hyo-Jin was in control of the net, blocking (five points) and spiking (six points) to help Korea eventually take back the lead at 18-17, holding on to take the set 25-22 and squaring the match at 1-1.
Leyva had 11 points by the end of the second set, and was receiving strong support from 18-year-old Maguilaura Frias with seven points.
After two sets on auto-pilot, in the third Korea slipped back into the form that has made it one of the form teams of the week, blocking its way to a comfortable 25-14 set win.
The scoreline was built not around the dominance of Kim Yeon-Koung, although she was good, but around the impassable wall Korea built along the net. Once again it was Hyo-Jin who led the way, taking her block tally to seven, and Bae Yoo-Na, with three.
The block count at the end of the third set was 14 to two.
For Peru, Libero Palacios continued to impress with her digging, while Leyva took her personal points tally to 18.
Once again Peru started strongly in the fourth set, taking an 8-6 lead before Korea steadied to wrest control at 9-8. The next 15 points were an arm-wrestle, with teams going point-for-point, before Korea steadied to close out the set 25-21 and the match 18-25, 25-22, 25-14, 25-21.
Korea finished with a tournament record-equalling 16 blocks, exactly half of them by the impressive Hyo-Jin, compared to Peru’s three, while Kim Yeon-Koung led the scoring with 19 points.
For Peru, even though the Korean wall was very effective, Leyva continues to show why she is a star of the future, finishing with 23 points. Captain Uribe finished with 11 points in one of her best matches of the tournament so far, and 31-year-old Libero Palacios could hold her head high.
Peru’s Olympic chances now hang by a thread, requiring wins against Netherlands and Thailand in its final matches, and for other results to go its way, to book a spot in Rio.
By contrast Korea is now in the box seat to take one of the four tickets up for grabs.
World Olympic Qualification Tournament websites:Women's WOQT in JapanMen's WOQT in JapanWomen's WOQT in Puerto RicoMen's WOQT in Mexico
Related information:Olympic qualification process