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Superb Sloetjes leads Dutch to impressive win over Japan

 
Toyota, Japan, May 24, 2018 - Lonneke Sloetjes executed another outstanding performance to engineer a comfortable 3-0 (25-18, 25-18, 25-21) win for the Netherlands over the Pool 5 hosts Japan at the first-ever women's FIVB Volleyball Nations League on Thursday.

The Dutch, whose four-game winning streak was shattered when they were beaten 3-0 by the United States on Wednesday, rebounded from that disappointment with an impeccable display against the highly-rated Japanese team.

Sloetjes, who played the starring role in the Netherlands' heart-stopping five-set win over Belgium on Tuesday, was once again the architect of her team's victory, hitting 13 winning spikes in her 14-point haul.

Middle blocker Yvon Belien finished with 13 points, from 10 spikes and three blocks, while the ever-reliable Anne Buijs chalked up 12 points to take her total for the tournament to 80, the most by a Dutch player.

Risa Shinnabe, who was Japan's leading scorer in Wednesday's win over Belgium, once again led the way for her team, finishing with 10 points, level with teenager Ai Kurogo, the youngest member of the host-nation's squad.

With an average 10 centimetre height advantage over their opponents, the Netherlands got maximum benefit from their taller players, with 1.91 metre high Sloetjes leading the attack and the 1.98 metre tall Nicole Koolhaas marshalling the defence.

Koolhaas (9 points) finished with four blocks and teamed up with Britt Bongaerts (6 points, 4 blocks) for a double that sealed the first set after the Netherlands came out flying, racing to a 9-3 lead as Buijs and the other heavy hitters quickly found their range.

The second set was tighter but the Netherlands pulled away after the second technical time-out after a desperate diving save from captain Maret Balkestein-Grothues (6 points) kept the ball alive and Belien finished off the set-clinching point with a superb block.

The Japanese captain Nana Iwasaka tried to rally her players in the third set, picking up five points in a fine display, while Yuki Ishii managed seven after being recalled to the court, but the Dutch kept their cool right at the end to secure the win.

The Netherlands return home next week to host Brazil, Poland and South Korea in Pool 9 while Japan travel to Hong Kong for Pool 12 games with China, Argentina and Italy.

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