London, England – Japan grabbed its first medal in women's volleyball in almost 30 years, downing South Korea in straight sets to win bronze.
Saori Sakoda had a game-high 23 points for Japan, which notched a 25-22, 26-24, 25-21 victory and picked up its first Olympic medal since a bronze at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. The Japanese finished fifth in Beijing four years ago.
Risa Shinnabe and Saori Kimura had 11 points each in the win.
"We had fear and nerves previous to the game. However we wanted to turn it into concentration and it worked. We worked very well together," said Sakoda.
South Korea capped its first Olympic appearance since 2000 with a fourth-place finish. Kim Yeon-Koung came into the game as the tournament's leading scorer and paced the Koreans with 22 points, while Han Song-Yi added 10.
Japan opened the match by scoring six of the first seven points, but Korea rallied to go up two at 12-10 on a Kim spike. The two teams were then deadlocked at 21-21, but the next four points went to Japan to close out the set.
Korea missed an opportunity to swing momentum in the second set as it fell behind 8-1 before clawing back to get within one at 16-15. A Kim spike evened the set at 24-24, but a Sakoda spike and a fault by the Koreans gave Japan the set.
"I believe that throughout the match Korea played at a high level," said Kim. "There were some areas that we didn't do well and some areas that we did. For those areas that we didn't do well, we will try to improve on them to do better next time, and for the areas that we did well, we will continue to build on our strengths."
Japan didn't get off to a quick start in the final set, but logged six of the final eight points to win the match, claiming bronze on a Sakoda spike.