Both Japan, the FIVB world No.7, and Korea, the world No.19 which won the Asian crown just once in the inaugural tournament in 1980 on home soil, played exceptionally well from the beginning.
As gifted Lee Jae-Yeong became a scoring machine of Korea to unleash a series of devastating spikes, Japan took the excellent offensive combination of aggressive attacks from Momoka Oda and Sakura Doi and scintillating blocking by Misaki Yamauchi and Makiko Homma in blunting the Korea’s serious challenge. Japan took the opening set 25-18.
Korea came back much stronger in the second set. They regrouped well to mightily attack the well-established Japanese, who on some crucial moments came up with dismal performance, allowing the Koreans attacking opportunities. Korea clinched the second set 25-17.
Korea marched on their aggression in the third set, but Japan held their nerves and started to produce the goods with an impenetrable defence. Lee Jae-Yeong remained a dominant force of Korea, attacking spectacularly from all corners. Nonetheless, Japan were just never-say-die. They boosted, spiked and blocked with superb skills and with this brilliant form, Japan sealed the third set victory 25-19.
With their backs against the wall, Korea poured everything they had in full steam in the fourth set to pursue another life in the tie-breaker. They fought hard, with explosive Lee Jae-Yeong overcoming the Japanese blockers with her thundering cross-court spikes and Lee Da-yeong and Jeong Da-Woun setting up solid blocking.
The on-going battle became more thrilling when the leads changed hands for several times. Japan played cool under pressure and remained in awesome form in the home stretch to capture the closely-contested set 25-23 and the exciting clash.
Terrific Lee Jae-Yeong of Korea scored a match-high 30 points including 27 kills, while Momoka Oda bagged 14 points for Japan.
Following the let-down, Korea, which went down to the home side 1-3 in the Pool E playoffs earlier, left the court with great despair, some players in tears. Japan were on cloud nine, jumping in the air with great joy and happily hugging one another.
With the victory, Japan booked a semi-final berth in the prestigious championship and a ticket to contest the next year’s FIVB World Junior Women’s Championship in Czech Republic.
In the Monday’s do-or-die semi-finals, Japan go up against old foes China, the team they suffered the humiliating straight-set loss in the Pool F playoffs.
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