Japan (JPN) vs. Mexico (MEX) women - Pool E / 1st -8th #6581981

Amika Saiki hits during the match between Japan and Mexico

Japan will complete the lineup of the 2023 FIVB Volleyball Women’s U21 World Championship semifinals as the Asian giants secured the fourth and last spot in play on the next round of the tournament on Wednesday in Leon, Mexico.

The second-best team in Pool E, the Japanese will face Italy, the top side in Pool F, in the semifinals on Friday. On the same day, Pool E winners China will battle Pool F runners-up Brazil for the second spot in the gold medal match.

The tournament is streamed live on the Volleyball World YouTube channel.

In order to take the last spot in the semifinals, Japan had to beat hosts Mexico in their third Pool E match in order to surpass Serbia and finish in second place. The Asians dropped a set, but accomplished their goal, producing a 3-1 (25-17, 25-20, 24-26, 25-21) victory over the home team to get to two wins and advance.

Outside hitters Ayane Kitamado and Megumi Fukazawa led the Japanese offense against the Mexicans, delivering 18 points each. The home team relied a lot on opposite Andrea Felix, who produced 15 points.

“We had some difficulties in terms of starting sets well, so we had to play one point at a time,” said setter Saki Iwamoto. “Luckily it worked out for us, but it wasn’t easy for us to win. The coach made some changes on the team and our strategy was to use our opposite more often and that helped us win.”

Serbia, who depended on a victory over China to advance regardless of the outcome of the match between Japanese and Mexicans, didn’t get the result they needed, but went down fighting, pushing the pool winners to five sets before falling 3-2 (19-25, 25-18, 25-11, 25-27, 15-12).

China (CHN) vs. Serbia (SRB) women - Pool E / 1st -8th #6579824

Chinese and Serbians battled during five sets in Leon

Chinese captain Yushan Zhuang was on fire again as the 20-year-old outside hitter produced 19 points (14 kills, four aces, one block) for her team. On the Serbian side, outside hitter Una Vajagic was the most effective player, with 17 points (14 kills, one ace, two blocks).

**2023 FIVB Volleyball Women’s U21 World Championship: Match Schedule and Results**

On Pool F, in Aguascalientes, Italy and Brazil entered the last day of the second phase guaranteed in the semifinals, but still had to duel for the top spot in the pool. The Europeans started behind, but came back strong to get a 3-1 (22-25, 25-15, 25-15, 26-24) win, beat the South Americans for the second time in a week and remain undefeated on the tournament.

Italy (ITA) vs. Brazil (BRA) women - Pool F / 1st -8th #6579650

Setter Valentina Bartolucci sets up an offensive play for Italy

Opposite Anna Adelusi had a stellar performance, leaving the court with 23 points (19 kills, one ace, three blocks) for the Italians – outside hitter Dominika Giuliani also had a strong night, with 19 points (15 kills, one ace, three blocks). Middle blocker Juliana Gandra scored 12 (ten kills, two blocks) for Brazil.

On the other match of the pool, the United States overcame Türkiye 3-1 (25-23, 16-25, 25-20, 25-21) with 19 points from outside hitter Skyler Pierce – Turkish opposite Beren Yesilirmak was the match’s top scorer, with 20.

Eliminated in the second round, Serbia, Mexico, the United States and Türkiye will now play for positions from 5th-9th.

In the playoffs from 13th-16th, the Dominican Republic topped Tunisia 3-1 (25-19, 25-23, 23-25, 25-22), Argentina swept Poland 3-0 (25-20, 25-16, 25-18), the Netherlands defeated Cuba 3-0 (25-15, 25-19, 25-23) and Egypt ground to secure a 3-2 (22-25, 25-16, 16-25, 25-9, 15-11) triumph over Thailand.

Now, while Argentina, Poland, Cuba and the Netherlands will play for positions 9th-12th, Egypt, Thailand, the Dominican Republic and Tunisia will compete for spots 13th-16th.

There will be no matches going on in Leon or Aguascalientes on Thursday, with competition resuming on Friday.

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FIVB Volleyball Women's U21 World Championship
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