Japan takes bronze in Olympic women's volleyball
Sun, 12 Aug 2012 4:53a.m.
By Anne M. Peterson
Japan added to its medal collection in Olympic women's volleyball by defeating South Korea in straight sets for the bronze at the London Games.
Japan has won two golds, two silver and two bronzes since volleyball joined the Olympics in 1964. Russia is the only other team with six.
Saori Sakoda scored 23 points, including the spike that won the match, in the 25-22, 26-24, 25-21 victory Saturday for fifth-ranked Japan. Kim Yeon-koung, the leading scorer in London, had 22 points for No. 15 South Korea.
The top-ranked U.S. women, who have not lost in the Olympic tournament, face No. 2 Brazil in the gold-medal match. It's a rematch of the final at the 2008 Beijing Games, which gave Brazil its first gold in the sport.
The win gives Japan a 7-2 advantage over South Korea in Olympic play.
Japan has won the gold medal in women's volleyball twice: in the sport's Olympic debut in Tokyo and at the 1976 Montreal Games. The team also has two silver medals, in the 1968 and 1972 Olympics, and the bronze in 1984.
South Korea's best result in Olympic play came in 1976, where the team won the bronze.
South Korea trailed early in the match but took a 12-10 lead in the first set on a pair of successful spikes from Kim. The Japanese pulled back ahead 21-19 on Erika Araki's kill, and while South Korea denied them their first chance at set point, they prevailed on Sakoda's kill.
Japan jumped out to an early 8-1 lead to start the second. The South Korean pulled to within 16-15 on Han Song-yi's block, then denied Japan set point three times and pulled even at 24, but Sakoda's kill put the Japanese back in front before Jung Dae-young misfired a kill.
South Korea rebounded to lead early in the third, but Japan tied it at 12 and took a 15-14 lead on another Sakoda kill, that was cheered by the team's rhythmically clapping fans at Earls Court.
After Sakoda's spike for the win, the Japanese piled on to the court. Later they linked hands and circled the floor in a skip.
Japan was swept by No. 2 Brazil in is semifinal match. The Japanese were clearly still wiped out from having outlasted No. 3 China 3-2 in the quarterfinals, upsetting a team it had never even taken a set from in five Olympic meetings.
The Japanese went 3-2 in the preliminary round to finish third in the six-team pool and advance to the knockout round.
South Korea fell to the U.S. women in straight sets in the semifinals after upsetting fourth-ranked Italy in four sets in the quarterfinals.
It was the first time two Asian teams made it to the semifinals since the 1988 Seoul Games.
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