MANILA, Philippines -- Olympic champions France and Italy swept separate opponents on Saturday as Week 2 of the Volleyball Nations League (VNL) reached its home stretch at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
France, ranked third in the world, remained unbeaten in the Quezon City leg after a 25-22, 27-25, 25-16 win over Japan in front of nearly 10,000 fans at the Big Dome.
Parading a different starting unit, the Japanese put up a gallant stand in the first two sets, but faded in the third, as the French, with their solid service and attacking game, pulled away at 17-9 and never looked back.
The Tokyo Olympics gold medalists improved to 6-1 heading into Sunday's morning duel with Germany. France has yet to yield a set in the Quezon City swing.
Coming off a tough 25-20, 21-25, 24-26, 25-19, 15-13 win over European champions Italy Friday night, Japan, with a short recovery time, made major adjustments on its starting six.
Ace spikers Yuji Nishida and Yuki Ishikawa did not start for Japan, while fan-favorite Ran Takahashi was designated as libero. Nonetheless, they still went toe to toe with France before running out of steam. In the second set, Barthelemy Chinenyeze delivered clutch kills, stepping up in the place of star Earvin Ngapeth.
"It was a very difficult fight today. I think we played amazing. Japan played amazing on defense so it was difficult to find solution on our attacks. But in the end, we won 3-0 and we were able to take care of three points today," said Trevor Clevenot, who had 10 points, seven receptions and four digs.
The Japanese, who were led by Otsuka Tatsunori's 15 kills, suffered their second loss in seven matches.
Meanwhile, Italy rediscovered its winning ways with a 25-19, 25-16, 25-21 victory over Slovenia.
The Italians won the first set despite committing six service aces and pounded on the Slovenians lack of cohesion in the next two to post their fifth win in seven matches.
Bouncing back from a narrow five-set loss to Japan Friday, Italy is actually level with its Asian rivals in the standings but the European champions are ahead in points, 16-15.
"We wanted to win today because we deserved three points. We are happy for this," said Alessandro Michieletto, who took the scoring mantle for the Italians with 16 points, including two blocks, and collected eight receptions and six digs.
Slovenia fell at the lower half of the standings with its fourth loss in seven matches.
Ziga Stern had 12 points while Rok Mozic chipped in 11 points and four digs for the Slovenians, runners-up to the Italians in the European championship last year.