Brazil and China kept their undefeated records, following their straight-set victories over Italy and Rwanda, respectively, on the last day of the women’s sitting volleyball preliminary round of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at Makuhari Messe Hall.
Brazil edged Italy on Tuesday to top Pool A, while China completed a sweep of Pool B following their victory over Rwanda. The United States and Canada also registered wins to claim the remaining two spots in the final four.
On Friday, September 3, Japan and Rwanda will start the ball rolling with their 7th-8th classification match at 13.30 local time, followed by the 5th-6th classification between European rivals Italy and RPC at 15.30.
The first semifinal match will start at 18.30 featuring Brazil and USA, followed by second semifinal encounter between China and Canada at 20.30.
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Match No. 9 – BRA v ITA – 3-1 (23-25, 25-17, 25-17, 25- 21)
Brazil and Italy played the first match of the day. Both these two teams have a common affiliation with coach Amauri Roberto. Amauri, who is currently coaching the Italian team, was part of the coaching staff of the Brazilian team that competed at Beijing 2008. He also served as president of the Brazilian Sitting Volleyball Federation from 2009 to 2017.
Italy went straight into the game without restraint on their offence and with as much focus and determination as Brazil. Giulia Aringhieri played a key role in getting her team ahead in the first set. However, Brazil broke away from Italy after the 16-all deadlock to take a 21-17 lead. Italy managed to get back and succeeded with a 25-23 win off errors by Brazil.
Brazil turned their frustration into positive energy to get lead 8-4 in the second set. Italy lost its concentration and allowed Brazil to widen the gap at 16-7. Brazil progressed and did not allow Italy to make a comeback with Edwarda de Oliveira Dias sealing the set 25-17.
In the third set, the Brazilians kept on putting pressure on the Italians, forcing them to commit errors. As Brazil led 8-4, Italy continued to struggle with their inconsistency on serve and defence, allowing the former to gain an 18-10 advantage. Edwarda once again caused damage to the Italian net defence and helped Brazil secure a 25-16 win in the set.
Italy gave Brazil a tougher challenge in the fourth set as they played with the same intensity as their opening set performance, which caused a tied score at 11-all. Then Brazil started to put pressure on their serve to pile up points that pushed them towards the win. Brazil closed the set at 25-21 to claim the top spot in Pool A.
“Since the beginning we have been practising and studying our opponents. We are happy that we have a 3-0 win record. So, we will try to use everything we did in training in the semifinal match,” Brazil libero Gizele Maria da Costa Dias said.
“In this match, we couldn’t do exactly apply the things that we trained for in some plays and rallied, but we still managed to win the game. The key is really to train hard because you have tough opponents here. In the next round, nothing will be easy anymore.”
“We need to keep our focus and we have to keep doing what we have been training hard for. We have been doing that, so we have to put in on the court. We still have two more training and video sessions, so we will use that and see how we can still improve on our game.” Brazil player Jani Bastista Freitas added.
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Match No. 10 – CHN v RWA – 3-0 (25-6, 25-9, 25-8)
Next up are China, top team in Pool B, facing bottom-ranked team Rwanda. There was no doubt about China’s qualification to the semifinals and the Asian powerhouse squad utilised the opportunity to rotate their players.
The first set saw Rwanda score a couple of aces, but China pressed hard to build a comfortable margin. They did not lose their momentum and won easily 25-6 in just 16 minutes of play.
The second set followed the same pattern as the first set, as Rwanda gave a better fight and managed to score extra points in the set. However, China better all-around game dominated Rwanda. The Asian squad gained a 2-0 set advantage off their 25-9 set victory.
In the third set, China played consistently and showed no drop in their focus and momentum. They overpowered the Rwandans in the third set 25-8.
“We still have a long way to go. We have to improve on a lot of things like our blocking. We also have to work on our rotation and know well who is going to serve and where the player is going to serve,” Rwanda captain Liliane Mukobwankawe said.
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Match No. 11 – RPC v USA – 0-3 – (19-25, 15-25, 22-25)
It was a make-or-break game for the Rio 2016 gold medallists United States and reigning world champions RPC. Both teams have identical win-loss records and will use all the tricks in their books to emerge victorious in this hotly contested encounter.
USA led from the start but RPC gradually caught up and levelled the score, and were even ahead by one point at the second technical timeout (16-15). This did not last as USA quickly turned the tables and cruised to a first set win 25-19, the big difference coming from a couple of successful blocks by the North American side.
The second set was a delight to watch as both teams showcased their best volleyball skills, but it was USA that gained better traction to lead in the set. Lora Webster did some serious damage with her serve to lift her team for a strong start at 6-2.
USA made a barrage of excellent plays while RPC struggled on their errors. USA had an eight-point lead at the second technical timeout, leaving their rivals subdued in their game and mood. USA kept the lead all the way to end of the set with some remarkable hits from Heather Erickson. USA took the set 25-15.
RPC somehow woke up in the third set and showed a lot of drive and took an 8-4 lead, but USA slowly sneaked back into the match. RPC still had the upper hand with a three-point lead at 16-13.
Svetlana Churakova’s efficiency at the net – both in attack and block – allowed RPC to keep their opponents at bay for a little longer. As the score continued to balloon in favour of RPC, USA made a heroic comeback to tie the score at 22-all. A couple of errors by RPC down the final stretch of the third set cost them the match, as USA claimed three straight points to win 25-22.
“We are becoming more cohesive and more together. For us, making it through Brazil must be our first goal, and tomorrow we really get to practice and hone in on beating Brazil. As we go forward, the cohesive unit that we could become as a team is really important for us,” said USA setter Kaleo Maclay on what it takes to get into the gold medal match.
Match No. 12 – CAN v JPN – 3-0 (25-19, 25-15, 25-20)
The last game of the day saw Canada play hosts China, where the former is seeking to confirm their place in the semifinals.
Both teams showed a lot of determination and kept a tight score up to the second technical timeout, with the host team ahead with a one-point lead 16-15. Canada then outscored the Japanese with a 7-3 run in the succeeding plays to grab the lead 22-19 and scored the next three markers to seal the first set victory 25-19.
Canada played with better consistency in the second set, but Japan refused to give up and kept on fighting. Canada took the lead at the second technical timeout 16-10, and even though Japan played clever to gain points, the latter still trailed behind by five points at 20-15. Julie Kozun made some powerful swings from the service line and helped Canada take the second set 25-15.
Japan dictated the tempo and had a 5-3 lead, taking advantage of Canada’s struggle at the start of the third set. As soon as Heidi Peters got her turn to serve, her aces provided the push to take the lead for the first time in the set.
By the second technical timeout, it was still a tight 16-14 score in favour of Canada. Despite the several missed serves, it remained a close contest until the end, with Canada finally delivering match victory through several service and attack winners in their third set win 25-21.
“Hopefully we can go into the semifinal match super aggressive, like we were in the first half of the tournament – come out swinging and stick to our game plan. We are really hoping we can with that, and if things don’t go our way then we are going to be really focused on that bronze medal,” Canada setter Jennifer Oakes said.