Jan Paolo Pasco

World No. 6 Japan reasserted its mastery of World No. 10 Netherlands, 25-19, 26-24, 23-25, 25-17, to remain unscathed in the 2023 Men's Volleyball Nations League (VNL) Manila leg at the Mall of Asia Arena, Friday.

Photo Courtesy of INQUIRER.net

The Japanese hiked their record to 10-0 while also handing the Dutch their sixth loss in 11 games.

After winning the first two sets, Japan came short of completing a clean sweep as the Netherlands mounted a spirited fightback in the third set. However, Ryujin Nippon went full throttle in the fourth to ultimately secure the deal.

“It was a very interesting game. The third set was a bit of a different situation. In the third set, we lost so in the next set, we had to change our minds,” said Yuji Nishida in the post-match interview.

Coming from a 2-1 set lead, the Japanese squad was all business in the fourth frame after turning a slim 10-8 lead into a commanding 19-10 advantage and never looked back.

“We were really working well so we have to continue to play like this and we have to work and prepare for the final phase," said skipper Yuki Ishikawa. "My teammates also played all good so I'm really happy.”

Clicking right from the get-go, Japan got off to a hot start behind the heroics of Ishikawa and Ran Takahashi, pulling away a comfortable 19-13 spread while negating the Netherlands' floor defense to take the first set.

Trying to sustain their momentum in the second set, the Asians were in control as they comfortably held a 24-19 cushion. However, the match took an unexpected turn when the Dutch equalized the score at 24-all before getting faltered off Abdel-Aziz's error and Ishikawa's attack.

Both squads pulled off an intense change of attacks in the third frame after knotting at 19-19. But the Netherlands did not go without a fight after surviving Japan and extending the set in fourth, 25-23.

It was an all-Japanese show from then on.

Ishikawa led the charge for the Ryujin Nippon after scoring 17 points on 14 attacks and two blocks, and one ace. Akihiro Yamauchi and Kento Miyaura chipped in 13 and 12 points, respectively.

Wouter Ter Maat paced the Dutch club after putting up 21 points on 18 attacks, two blocks in a loss.

Japan seeks to extend its unblemished record when it faces Italy on Saturday, while the Netherlands looks to keep its hopes alive for the Final Round as they meet Slovenia on Sunday.

Edited by Diana Mae Salonoy