Super Shinnabe leads Japan to victory over Belgium


Toyota, Japan, May 23, 2018 - Propelled by sensational performances from Risa Shinnabe and Sarina Koga, Japan posted their first win at home in the inaugural women's FIVB Volleyball Nations League with a 3-0 (25-19, 25-20, 25-19) victory over Belgium on Wednesday.

The two Japanese wing spikers combined for 28 points, with Shinnabe leading the way with 16, highlighted by 15 kills. Koga finished with 12 kills despite being substituted in the second set as the Pool 5 hosts bounced back after Tuesday's loss to the United States to beat the Yellow Tigers in straight sets.

Her replacement Yuki Ishii made an immediate impact, racking up eight points in quick time, while Mai Okumura was a constant threat at the net, finishing with nine.

Teenager Britt Herbots was once again at the heart of Belgium's challenge, picking up a game-high 17 points to overtake Kaja Grobelna as her team's  leading overall pointscorer in the tournament.

The 18-year-old, showing no signs of fatigue as she leapt, ran and dived all over the court, also scoring off two blocks, was well supported by Celine Van Gestel, who finished with nine points, and Grobelna, who tallied six.

The Belgians suffered a gut-wrenching loss to the Netherlands on Tuesday when they were beaten 3-2 after failing to convert a match point in the fourth set and were unable to raise their game against a Japanese side that enjoyed the bulk of support from the enthusiastic crowd at the Sky Hall.

The Japanese captain Nana Iwasaka clinched the first set with a perfectly executed spike that found a way past the Belgian blockers then Okumura made it 2-0 with an unstoppable angled hit from the net.

With Marlies Janssens leading the defence and the acrobatic Herbots starting to find some gaps at the back of the opponents' court, the Yellow Tigers took the lead in the third set but were overhauled by the hosts who picked up maximum points.

Japan's next match is against the Netherlands on Thursday while Belgium faces the daunting challenge of playing the in-form US, who beat the previously unbeaten Dutch 3-0 earlier on Wednesday and are yet to drop a set in Toyota.