Brazil, Japan reach semifinals
LONDON -- Japan outlasted China 3-2 Tuesday to reach the semifinals of women's volleyball at the London Games, upsetting a team it had never even taken a set from at any Olympics.
Many of the Chinese players burst into tears as the Japanese celebrated at Earls Court.
The fifth-ranked Japanese won 28-26, 23-25, 25-23, 23-25, 18-16 and will next play defending Olympic champion Brazil, which beat Russia 3-2.
Saori Kimura and Yukiko Ebata each scored 33 points for Japan, whose finesse countered China's power. Hui Ruoqi had 26 points for China, which had beaten Japan in straight sets in all five Olympic matches between the nations since the sport debuted at the 1964 Tokyo Games.
Japan scored four straight points to go up 5-3 in the deciding set and held off China until Wang Yimei made two straight kills to put her team ahead 9-8. Japan regained the lead and won on Hitomi Nakamici's ace after Zeng Chunlei's dig sailed out to set up match point.
Wang, a 6-foot-2 wing spiker known for her powerful jumper serve, had 22 points for China, which was ranked third. Coming off surgery on her right ankle, Wang had problems with the injury in the preliminary round, and against Japan it was heavily wrapped.
The energetic Japanese team kept pace with China in the first set, taking a 27-26 advantage on Ebata's spike before Kimura's kill for set point couldn't be stopped by Hui.
China found a rhythm midway through the second, pulling ahead 18-15 on Xu Yunli's ace, then winning it on her kill. Japan won the third set with another Kimura spike.
The fourth set was tight until Wang's kill set up Ma Yunwen's block to force the deciding set.
The Japanese have won gold twice in volleyball, but their most recent was in 1976. China has won the gold three times, most recently at the 2004 Athens Games. The Chinese won the bronze on home soil at the Beijing Games.
China struggled going into the games, losing four straight matches at the recent FIVB World Grand Prix while resting Wang's ankle. Chinese coach Yu Juemin caused a bit of a stir when he suggested a three-week vegetarian diet was responsible for the team's poor showing in the tournament.
The team eschewed meat while preparing for the Grand Prix away from their usual training facility, because there were concerns about clenbuterol, which is illegally used to bulk up livestock and produce leaner meat.
Clenbuterol is on the World Anti-Doping Agency's list of banned substances as an anabolic agent that builds muscle and burns fat, and athletes who test positive can face bans of up to two years.
Brazil 3, Russia 2
Defending champion Brazil denied Russia match point six times before winning 3-2 Tuesday and advancing to the semifinals.
Brazil has reached the semifinals in the last seven Olympics. The team's only gold medal came at the Beijing Games when it went undefeated and beat the United States in the final.
Fernanda Rodrigues' ace set up Fabiana Claudino's kill for the 24-26, 25-22, 19-25, 25-22, 21-19 victory. Brazil's coaches joined the players in a celebration at Earls Court.
Russia has won four gold medals in women's volleyball since the sport joined the Olympics sport in 1964, but none since 1988.
Sheilla Castro scored 27 points for second-ranked Brazil. Ninth-ranked Russia was led by Liubov Shashkova with 28 points for ninth-ranked Russia.
Brazil's Fernanda Ferreira badly missed on her swing for a kill to put Russia ahead 24-23 in the first set. Castro's spike went wide to give the set to the Russians. Brazil rallied to go up 12-7 in the second set as Thaisa Menezes spiked for set point.
Midway through the third, when Claudino served into the net and subbed out, Jose Guimaraes pulled her aside to offer encouragement.
Castro's wide spike gave Russia a 12-11 lead and Liubov Shashkova's kill extended it to 19-15 before her block won the set. Brazil trailed by as many as four points early in the fourth, but rallied to go ahead 9-8. Playing with emotion and wildly cheering each point, the Brazilians were a sharp contrast to the more serious Russians.
Menezes' spike set up set point, but then she served into the net. Claudino's block sent the match to a deciding set.
Brazil defeated the Russians in straight sets in Beijing. The two teams have each won three matches against each other in Olympic competition.
The two teams also met in the 2010 world championships final, with Russia winning 3-2. Brazil beat Russia in their last meeting in the 2011 World Grand Prix semifinals.
Late last year Brazil surrendered its four-year hold on the No. 1 ranking to the U.S., but the Brazilians were still considered a medal threat in London.
Then Brazil unexpectedly struggled in the preliminary round, going 3-2 with losses to the U.S. and a three-set upset by South Korea. They needed a victory over Serbia in the round's final match to advance.
Russia was undefeated in the preliminary round to clinch the top seed in its pool.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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