Victorious Journey: Japan and Italy Secure Last VNL Finals Spots in Thrilling Showdowns

The quarterfinal matchups will be determined after Sunday’s matches


Published 03:14, 01 Jul 2023

Japanese players celebrate the victory that pushed them into the VNL Finals

The composition of the Volleyball Nations League 2023 Finals is now set after Japan and Italy claimed the last spots in play on Saturday, in Bangkok, Thailand, and will make the trip to Arlington, USA, from July 12-16.

Japan was the last national team to secure a spot in the Finals, after they prevailed in the Asian Derby against Thailand, claiming a 3-0 (25-18, 25-22, 25-20) victory in the last match of the day at the Hua Mark Indoor Stadium.

  • Watch Volleyball Nations League 2023 live on VBTV

Japan’s seventh victory in the VNL 2023 pushed the team to fifth place with 21 points, out of reach of all opponents currently sitting outside of the qualification zone to the Finals. Thailand continue in 13th place, with two victories (eight points).

Japanese captain and outside hitter Sarina Koga led the Japanese victory with 19 points (14 kills, two aces, three blocks). Opposite Kotona Hayashi tallied 13 points (all in kills), while middle blocker Nichika Yamada added another 11 (eight kills, three blocks).

“We knew there were a lot of Thai fans on the stands, but we could also feel the energy of our supporters and we felt at home on certain moments,” Koga commented. “It’s good to be in the Finals, but we still have a match to play and our next goal is to win it so we can get to Arlington in a good form.”

Koga had once again a strong performance for Japan

Outside hitter Chatchu-On Moksri was the most productive Thai player, having scored eight points (all in kills).

The Japanese got the win despite generating more points than their opponent in errors (23 to 17). The winners outscored the Thai in kills (46 to 32), blocks (seven to four) and aces (five to one).

Volleyball Nations League 2023: full schedule and results

Earlier in the day, defending champions Italy also booked their places in the Finals. The Europeans topped Croatia 3-0 (25-14, 25-17, 25-17) and also got to seven wins (18 points), securing a spot among the best eight teams in the Preliminary Phase.

Opposite Sylva Nwakalor played a big role in the Italian victory, with 20 points (17 kills, three blocks). Besides her, outside hitter Alice Degradi was the only one to score in double digits, with 13 (11 kills, two aces). Team captain and opposite Samanta Fabris produced nine points for the Croatians.

In another match played in Bangkok, Canada and the Netherlands battled for five sets and the North Americans prevailed 3-2 (25-27, 25-16, 18-25, 25-23, 15-9). Star outside hitter Alexa Gray led the Canadian offense with 25 points (23 kills, one ace, one block), while middle blocker Indy Baijens tallied 19 points (13 kills, two aces, four blocks) for the Dutch.

The quarterfinal matchups for the VNL 2023 Finals will be determined on Sunday, when the Preliminary Phase will come to an end. Three duels will be held in Bangkok – Croatia vs. Türkiye, at 13:00 local time (06:00 UTC), Italy vs. Japan at 17:00 local time (10:00 UTC) and Thailand vs. Brazil at 20:30 local time (13:30 UTC). Besides the quarterfinal encounters, the last day of the Preliminary Phase will also determine which team will be dropped from the VNL in 2024, with Bulgaria and Croatia battling to remain in the tournament next season.

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