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S. Korea falls to Japan in semifinals at Asian women's volleyball tourney

Host South Korea lost to Japan in the semifinals of the Asian Women's Volleyball Championship on Saturday, coming up short in a bid to claim its first continental title on home court.

Japan rallied after dropping the first set for a 3-1 (22-25, 25-23, 26-24, 28-26) victory at Jamsil Arena in Seoul and moved on to Sunday's final. It will face the winner of the other semifinal clash between Thailand and China, scheduled for later Saturday.

The loser of that match will take on South Korea in the third place match at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.


South Korea has never won the biennial Asian championship, which began in 1975. It has had seven runner-up finishes.

The drought will continue for at least another two years, as South Korea blew leads in both the third and fourth sets to gift wrap the match for Japan, which brought a team of 10 teenagers who were part of the under-20 world championships winning squad.

South Korea rallied from a 16-11 deficit to take the hard-fought first set at 25-22. At 19-19, South Korea went ahead with a Japanese turnover, and kills by Lee Jae-yeong and Kim Yeon-koung helped stake South Korea to a 22-20 lead. Kim, South Korea's captain and its most dangerous attacker, finished off the set with a spike.

South Korea once again found itself trailing midway through the second set, and there was no rally this time.

Down 22-16, South Korea scored four consecutive points to put pressure on Japan. But with a 23-22 lead for Japan, Haruna Soga's kill nudged her team ahead. South Korea got a point back, but Mayu Ishikawa closed out the set with a spike.

It was Japan's turn to come back from a deficit in the third set. South Korea led 16-13, but Ishikawa, Tamaki Matsui and Soga made it 16-16.

A seesaw match ensued, but with South Korea down 24-23, Kim Yeon-koung forced a deuce. Japan got the next two points to win the third set, thanks to Shion Hirayama's kill and Kim Hee-jin's spike that went out of bounds on the next possession.

South Korea squandered a 21-17 lead in the fourth set, allowing Japan to tie it up at 21-21. With the score deadlocked at 26, Miwako Osanai and Ishikawa got the next two points for Japan to clinch the victory. (Yonhap)