Kenneth Joshua Dalde

Italy displayed dominance at the nets as it handed the World No. 6 Japan its first defeat of the tournament in four sets, 29-27, 28-26, 23-25, 25-20, during the 2023 Men's Volleyball Nations League (VNL) Manila leg at the Mall of Asia Arena, Saturday. 

Photo Courtesy of Volleyball World

The Italians capitalized on their height advantage over Japan, uncorking 14 blocks against four, which helped them earn a 9-3 record.

Shutting the doors against the Nippon were Gianluca Galassi and Yuri Romanò, who produced five and three blocks, respectively.

"It was a great match. We played really good versus a very strong team. Now, we have a lot of confidence as we improved during the games and we'll get ready for the finals week," said Romano.

Italy sealed the first two extended sets against the crowd-favorite Japan, led by Romano, who sizzled with 20 points.

On the other hand, Ryujin Nippon denied Italy’s access for a straight-set sweep as Yuki Ishikawa unleashed an off-the-block hit to keep their hopes alive, 25-23.

"Our sideouts was not working well... so we'll have to make it [sideouts] better,” said Ishikawa when asked what to improve after their loss to Italy. 

The Ran Takahashi-less team managed to maintain its momentum, controlling the early part of the fourth set, 15-11, but the Italians orchestrated a 12-4 run with the help of their foes’ costly errors, 23-20.

Italy tremendously solidified their walls at the end of the match, as two consecutive blocks against Yuji Nishida led the Italians to sweep all their games in the Philippines. 

Daniele Lavia contributed 15 attacks, two blocks, and one service ace, while Alessandro Michieletto added 14 markers. 

Meanwhile, Nishida and Ishikawa tallied 21 and 20 points, respectively, in a losing effort. 

Edited by Diana Mae Salonoy