Salem Radio Network News Monday, September 20, 2021

Sports

Olympics-Volleyball-Japan dominate Venezuela, Italy claim comeback win v Canada

By Toshiki Hashimoto

TOKYO (Reuters) – Hosts Japan began their men’s volleyball campaign with a straight sets win over Venezuela while Italy fought back from two sets down to seal a remarkable victory against Canada in their Pool A openers at an empty Ariake Arena on Saturday.

Japan’s Yuki Ishikawa (15 points) and 19-year-old Ran Takahashi (11 points) led from the front with a barrage of spikes while Akihiro Yamauchi was in inspired form at the net to seal a 25-21 25-20 25-15 victory.

At 16-16 in the opening set, Yamauchi made three blocks on consecutive points to give Japan the lead. Japan never relinquished the advantage in a closely-fought second set while it was one-way traffic for the dominant hosts in the third.

“It is important to win this first match. We made several errors in the beginning of the game but it was expected. We didn’t panic and focused on what we had to do,” Ishikawa told reporters.

“If we had spectators in the arena, they surely would have motivated us more. But the fact there are no fans here never reduces our motivation for the Olympics.”

Italy, silver medallists in 2016, were pegged back in a see-saw opening set that ended 28-26 before they quickly found themselves trailing by two sets, with Canada’s Sharone Vernon-Evans and Lucas van Berkel doing most of the early damage.

Italy lost several points early in the third too with their wayward serves but once they found their groove with a series of aces to take the lead they never looked back, forcing a tiebreak as Canada made errors on serve.

The towering Italian duo of Alessandro Michieletto and Osmany Juantorena scored 24 and 21 points respectively, while Galassi Gianluca also scored a match-high four points from blocks at the net.

“Since this is my first Olympics, I was nervous but tried to focus on the game… the saddest thing is that I cannot see spectators here,” Michieletto, 19, said.

Brazil, the 2016 gold medallists, beat Tunisia in straight sets with Wallace De Souza top scoring with 13 points.

Their spirited South American rivals Argentina won the opening set against the Russian Olympic Committee team but were soon overwhelmed by Maxim Mikhaylov and Dmitry Volkov, who combined for 33 points, while the team made 13 blocks.

Argentina saved two of five match points but did not have enough in the tank to take it to a deciding fifth set.

(Reporting by Toshiki Hashimoto in Tokyo and Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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