Japan NT 2019 Women

  • **** WIDE ROSTER ****


    • TOMINAGA, Koyomi - Lardini Filottrano (Saitama), 1989.05.01, 175cm, 68kg
    • MIYASHITA, Haruka - Okayama Seagulls, 1994.09.01, 177cm, 61kg
    • SATO, Miya - Hitachi Rivale, 1990.03.07, 175cm, 62kg
    • TASHIRO, Kanami - CSM București (Toray), 1991.03.25, 173cm, 66kg
    • SEKI, Nanami - Toray Arrows, 1999.06.12, 170cm, 58kg


    • INOUE, Kotoe - CSM București (JT), 1990.02.15, 162cm, 55kg
    • YAMAGISHI, Akane - Saitama Ageo Medics, 1991.01.08, 165cm, 55kg
    • KOBATA, Mako - JT Marvelous, 1992.08.15, 164cm, 56kg

    Middle Blockers:

    • ARAKI, Erika - Toyota Auto Body Queenseis, 1984.08.03, 186cm, 81kg
    • IWASAKA, Nana - Hisamitsu Springs, 1990.07.03, 187cm, 75kg
    • OKUMURA, Mai - Nakhon Ratchasima (JT), 1990.10.31, 177cm, 69kg
    • AKUTAGAWA, Aika - JT Marvelous, 1991.04.03, 180cm, 62kg
    • SHIMAMURA, Haruyo - NEC Red Rockets, 1991.04.03, 182cm, 78kg
    • WATANABE, Aya - Toyota Auto Body Queenseis, 1991.04.23, 176cm, 68kg
    • IRISAWA, Mai - Hitachi Rivale, 1999.06.02, 188cm, 72kg

    Wing Spikers (OH/OP):

    • SHINNABE, Risa - Hisamitsu Springs, 1990.07.11, 173cm, 64kg
    • ISHII, Yuki - Hisamitsu Springs, 1991.05.08, 180cm, 68kg
    • UCHISETO, Mami - Toyota Auto Body Queenseis, 1991.10.25, 170cm, 74kg
    • NABEYA, Yurie - Denso Airybees, 1993.12.15, 1993.12.15, 176cm, 55kg
    • IMAMURA, Yuka - Hisamitsu Springs, 1993.09.02, 176cm, 69kg
    • KOGA, Sarina - NEC Red Rockets, 1996.05.05, 180cm, 67kg
    • KUROGO, Ai - Toray Arrows, 1998.06.14, 180cm, 69kg
    • NAKAGAWA, Miyu - Hisamitsu Springs, 2000.01.08, 180cm, 65kg
    • OSANAI, Miwako - Hitachi Rivale, 1997.07.19, 175cm, 67kg
    • YOSHINO, Yuri - Saitama Ageo Medics, 1999.12.16, 173cm, 67kg
    • TOKOKU, Reina - Denso Airybees, 1999.04.28, 177cm , 77kg
    • ISHIKAWA, Mayu - Toray Arrows, 2000.05.14, 171cm, 68kg
    • MIYABE, Ameze - Kinrankai High School 3rd Year, 2001.10.12, 172cm, 54kg

    To these we bid adieu:

    Wing Spikers:

    • NAGAOKA, Miyu - Hisamitsu Springs, 1990.07.25, 179cm, 64kg
    • NOMOTO, Rika - Hisamitsu Springs, 1991.09.21, 180cm, 72kg
    • HORIKAWA, Mari - Toray Arrows, 1992.05.03, 183cm, 72kg
    • TAKAHASHI, Saori - Toyota Auto Body Queenseis, 1992.12.09, 177cm, 66kg
    • INOUE, Arisa - Hisamitsu Springs, 1995.05.08, 178cm, 66kg
    • ARATANI, Shiori - NEC Red Rockets, 1998.09.22, 173cm, 61kg

    Middle Blockers:

    • MATSUMOTO, Ayaka - Saitama Ageo Medics, 1988.12.26, 188cm, 68kg


    • NAKAGAWA, Yumi - Retired, 1993.11.12, 166cm, 59kg
    • TOE, Mana - Hisamitsu Springs, 1994.05.18, 163cm, 58kg

    2019 Women's Japan National Team Schedule

    What Where When
    1st Domestic Training Camp Ajinomoto National Training Center (Tokyo) 4/21 (Sun) – 5/10 (Fri)
    Montreux Volley Masters Montreux (Switzerland) 5/13 (Mon) – 5/18 (Sat)
    FIVB Volleyball Nations League Week 1 Ruse (Bulgaria) 5/21 (Tue) – 23 (Thu)
    FIVB Volleyball Nations League Week 2 Ankara (Turkey) 5/28 (Tue) – 5/30 (Thu)
    FIVB Volleyball Nations League Week 3 Hong Kong (China) 6/4 (Tue) – 6/6 (Thu)
    FIVB Volleyball Nations League Week 4 Tokyo (Japan) 6/11 (Tue) – 6/13 (Thu)
    FIVB Volleyball Nations League Week 5 Korea 6/18 (Tue) – 6/20 (Thu)
    Before the Final Training Camp Undecided 6/30 (Sun) – 7/2 (Tue)
    FIVB Volleyball Nations League Finals Nanjing (China) 7/3 (Wed) – 7/7 (Sun)
    2nd Domestic Training Camp
    Ajinomoto National Training Center (Tokyo) / Hiroshima 7/8 (Mon) – 9/18 (Thu)
    Overseas Training Camp Undecided 7/20 (Sat) – 7/31 (Wed)
    3rd Domestic Training Camp
    Ajinomoto National Training Center (Tokyo) 8/1 (Thu) – 9/13 (Fri)
    International Friendly Match (Chinese Taipei) Fukaya Big Turtle, Saitama Prefecture 8/10 (Sat) – 8/11 (Sun)
    Asian Women's Championship Seoul (Korea) 8/17 (Mon) – 8/25 (Tues)
    World Cup 2019 Yokohama Arena (Yokohama)
    Kitakai Kitaeru (Sapporo)
    Maruzen INTEC Arena (Osaka)
    9/14 (Sat) – 9/19 (Thu)
    9/22 (Sun) – 9/24 (Tue)
    9/27 (Fri) – 9/29 (Sun)
  • I can't imagine there will be any changes to the core NT until after 2020.

    After the 2018 season I posed these questions:

    • Will Erika Araki retire?
    • Will Ai Kurogo grow up?
    • Will Miyashita return?

    I think Araki will stick around. Whether or not she remains top flight is up in the air. She started the current club season very well, had a few games in street clothes, and finished the season a little below average for her but still better than most MBs in the league. We shouldn't forget she's a monstrous 186cm!

    Kurogo, gosh. She did get the call to finish a handful of Toray matches this season and that's probably the best thing for her growing up-ness.

    I think Miyashita is a no-go. Tominaga and Tashiro seem locked into the position. To my eyes they are both better at actually setting the ball -- Precision, according to Sisko 's triad of Setter Functionality. They are both probably better at Deception Function, simply because of experience/age. Miyashita's got them beat on Athleticism Function, and leaves them in the dust at every level of floor defense.

    We certainly have to add Miyu Nagaoka to the questions. Two years ago at this time the general consensus was that the NT belonged to Nagaoka. She tore an ACL at the end of the 16/17 club season, missed the 17/18 season and most of 2018 NT. She re-injured herself late last fall while in Italy. Don't know if it's the same body part, but if it is ... that's bad. I'm not sure how big of a blow to the NT this is considering Risa Shinnabe just gets better every day. Nagaoka might be ready for 2020 but I doubt we'll see her in 2019.

    I almost want to add Sarina Koga to the list of questions because she has sucked so badly this club season but I don't know if that matters. She's like the NT Preexisting Condition.

  • I feel terrible for Nagaoka. I hope she comes back this summer, but once she took the whole season off last year I`m afraid we might not see her anytime soon.

    I also don`t think there will a lot of changes....The Olympic is already next year....

    Tominaga is doing great in Italy, hopefully she learned a lot and she can bring all that to her teammates.

    The OH line up is truly the best Japan can offer ( too bad that is not good enough to compete against the top teams since they lack strength). Nabeya and Horiwaka regressed a lot this season. ....when it comes to Koga..I also don`t think her bad season matters that much, at the end of the day she still can perform better than any other that would take her place. I hope to see Watanabe this summer.

    Ishii and Shinnabe are the best duo still...

    I found out that some Brazilian users calls Gabi of Gabishii.... I guess Ishii was the one the blocked Gabi in that WCH first set that kicked Brazil out :lol:

  • I plan to blab on about each position :teach: but since you bring up Hitachi's Hisae Watanabe I'll give you my two cents. When I first started watching club ball (beyond NT players) she was the first player you suggested I learn about (Horikawa was 2nd). She was just coming off injury and didn't play regularly, but I liked her a lot. Still do, love her to death. She's a tireless, athletic attacker (9th in the league Total Points Scored). She doesn't receive, though, not even a little. If the stats are correct she received one serve during the regular round. Coach Nakada doesn't like non-receivers. Hisae is about average at everything else.

    What concerns me about Hisae is her emotional steel, or lack thereof. It's part of her charm, how much fun she has, but when she hits one out of bounds, or gets blocked, it makes her sad. Really sad. Not that everyone has to be Yuki Ishii, but when you get to the Japanese NT level, any emotion except for joy is a distraction. That's the way I see the team. I think it's what's holding Hitachi's Miwako Osanai back as well.

    And it's another reason I'm rockin on Hitachi's Miyu Kubota. She's frosty.

    btw - I stole the idea for starting this thread from your Serbia NT. Thanks ;)

    Oh, and:

    too bad that is not good enough to compete against the top teams since they lack strength.


    USA and Thailand are the only teams Japan has a problem with (Edit-and that's because of speed, not strength). Nobody beats Serbia and hardly anybody beats China, no matter their strength. Italy needs someone the caliber of Egonu to beat Japan. Russia, Brazil, Ned, bring 'em on.

    Turkey might be tricky. I look forward to that matchup.


  • I hope they will bring more new players to the list this year.

    Nanami Hirose (廣瀬七海) can try to replace Nagaoka. She is good at attack as well.

    Nanami Seki (関菜々巳) should get a chance to play for National team. I think her set is good with very high quality to outside hitters.

    Mai Irisawa (入澤まい) also can be tested in international competitions.

    There is few potential outside spikers in Japan as they are very short and V League is not most competitive. But still worth to try some new players to see their performance.

  • That's three players worth talking about!

    Nanami Seki (Toray Arrows) is probably closest to a shot at NT. There's not much opening at Setter right now but making the long list and working out with the pros might be worth it to uncover what she's truly got.

    Nanami Hirose (NEC) exploded last summer in the Asian Clubs and I had high hopes for her this Club Season, predicted a breakout year. She started very well, NEC's best scorer, but she must have gotten injured because she spent several weeks in street clothes. She doesn't receive at all (which is a non-starter for Coach Nakada) and she's very error prone with that cool jump serve of hers. I don't see her as emotionally mature enough yet for NT but that's my subjective opinion. She's not an OP so as a replacement for Nagaoka, I dunno. Hitachi's Miyu Kubota is a better option for that.

    I love Mai Irisawa (Hitachi). She put up great numbers this season in her debut but she seems so physically un-conditioned to me. Maybe she's just a teenager who hasn't grown into her body yet. She's 187-189cm and there's no denying her numbers, and the NT has to start looking at the next generation of MBs. Might be worth a shot at the wide roster to see what she's got. No real use calling up Ayaka Matsumoto again.

  • With club training level, players with height in Japan will never be physically ready. Just look at Nana Iwasaka.

    Please listen to Ferhat Akbas's interview in freeball volleyball podcast, how he described the training methods among Japan, China and Europe. He said the heavy practice in Japan is way more lighter compared with China and Europe.

    Suelle Oliveira who joins Victorina Himeji this year, also, said to Brazil press that she found Victorina Himeji only do physical training once a week, so she won't join the team practise on physical training, she keeps her own routine as the same in Brazil everyday.

  • I chuckle watching Nana Iwasaka's clodhoppery footwork but think dance lessons would help her more than weight training.

    Total BLOCKS, 2019 Regular Round:

    Nana Iwasaka 58

    Import Middle Blockers:

    Sinéad Jack 57

    Foluke (who didn't play a full season though) 53

    Dorris Jennifer 46

    Freya Aelbrecht 34

    Jaja 33

    Rhamat couldn't even crack the NEC lineup

    Ferhat's Podcast is here

    "He also talked about differing workout styles. He liked that Japan were tireless and disciplined--that they practice for hours and hours without complaint, whereas Euros get bored after an hour or so on court."

    Suelle's interview is here

    "My difficulty was to manage the time of training with ball, because it is not only the time itself, it is also the speed of training. Rallies last more than a minute on average. The ball does not fall! I do not know the magic formula of the Japanese, but they do not get tired! I'm impressed."

    I watch the Himeji matches. Suelle's greatest contribution is reception. Thank gosh she's pretty good at it because we know how that works. She's targeted because Himeji's other receivers are (a lot) better than her--although in a not so surprising move other teams started targeting #20 Riho Sadakane who joined the team at the beginning of this year. Target the rookie! Target the rookie!

    I would wholeheartedly welcome a little more muscle invading Japanese bodies, but at the expense of what?

    pope slogs me all the time on how "weak" the Japanese are. Rightfully so, but a team like DOM are not lacking in strength. Maybe a little more "training with the ball"? Nobody's perfect :rolll: Players like Lonneke Slöetjes and Kim Hill aren't exactly emblems of body tone but they are big and smart. (Relatively) little squirts like Britt Herbots and Gabi get the job done with attitude. I'd love to see the Japanese borrow a little of it from them, and/but agree with Rains that attitude piggybacks physical strength (sorry I can't find his quote, he was more eloquent).

    Culture and genes are millennial in the making. A few extra hours in the gym for the Japanese would never produce a physical thing of beauty like Zhang Changning.

  • sitenoise I don't remember any post I made that is more eloquent than what you've said. :lol:

    Favorite players: M: Maxim Mikhaylov, Murilo, Serginho, Aaron Russell, Otavio, Simone Giannelli, Ivan Zaytsev, Tsvetan Sokolov, Michał Kubiak, Mariusz Wlazly, Pawel Zagummy W: Sheilla, Zhu Ting, Natalia, Fe Garay, Fofao, Gabi, Thaisa, Foluke Akinradewo, Wei Qiuyue, Ding Xia, Carli Lloyd, Fabi, Natalia Goncharova, Yuko Sano, Saoris Kimura and Sakoda


  • What happened to Rhamat Alhassan? I don't keep up with the Japan League, but I seen her play for Florida in college before. I think I read somewhere that NEC thought of using her as Opp, I might be wrong. She had potential to become USA's rising young middle.

  • What happened to Rhamat Alhassan? I don't keep up with the Japan League, but I seen her play for Florida in college before. I think I read somewhere that NEC thought of using her as Opp, I might be wrong. She had potential to become USA's rising young middle.

    I really don't know. I can't read Japanese and they don't seem to gossip much anyway about things like this, and I don't follow USA volleyball, maybe someone who does might have read or heard something in the social medias.

    She looks a little young and gangling to me on court but I quite like her. Maybe just a coach's choice. NEC middles are/were playing pretty well, maybe coach just didn't want to change. I think Rhamat was finishing up rehab when the season started.

    It felt good when Rhamat was brought in during the 3rd set last game when NEC was letting a 2-sets-up match get away from them. She did well and finished the match but NEC still lost :(

  • Libero Options for 2019 NT

    Why aren't there quality liberos oozing out of every corner of Japan? They're built for it.

    Kotoe Inoue and Mako Kobata will be fine through 2020, so no worries. Coach Nakada will call up a few others to mess around in the VNL and whatnot. My pick from last year, Yumi Nakagawa, seems to have retired from volleyball. She made the wide roster but never got the call to play with the NT and isn't playing for any club this season. Sads.

    Reception, Passing, Defense. A couple additional esoteric measures for evaluating (all players, but) liberos specifically, stem from the golden rule: Involve yourself in every second of every play; don't wait to see if the play will involve you.

    If you're a libero and a float serve comes to the OH next to you in the receiving line and the ball bounces off her knee and comes right at you and you're surprised by it ... you flunk.

    The other thing is block coverage. Crucial for Japan. Not many share my love for Arisa Sato, and most coach-y type watchers probably think it's unwise to get on your knees when covering the block. But that's what she did and she was great at it. I get upset when the ball hits the floor in front of the 3-Point line.

    I like to watch players off-the-ball. And maybe it's because of the single, wide angle camera the V2 matches are broadcast in, but you can really watch how players prowl the floor. There are a few good liberos in the V2. I don't know their names or their stats, but Himeji, Prestige, and Kashiwa have pretty good liberos.

    As for the V1 I'm sure it will be Mana Toe (because she plays for Hisamitsu) and Akane Yamagishi (Nakada single her out for praise last year) again. If there is a 5th brought in it might be Toyota's Misato Sakakibara. I've had good things to say about Kurobe's Yurika Baba. Great reception and floor general. But if there is a free ball coming and Yurika is the one who's going to pass it, I get nervous. That's a deal breaker.

  • I think you should go and check more statistics when value the players not only total block scores. But that's not what I meant in the first post.

    The issue I think is not how many blocks or scores, I am not talking about it. I was saying that "physically un-conditioned" quote from you.

    I am talking about how to let a tall player in Japan can physical conditioned sooner. I watch 0 games of Himeji , I don't care what Suelle's greatest contribution because my point of view is clear not about the performance on the court. It's to me only one weight training per week is not enough and that's why she keeps her weight training routine. Clearly, the level of Japan club training have is very hard to make players physical ready.

    And I know there are good training traditions that Japan have, but to me, I want to see Japan can grow so what we keep looking at the good sides is not enough. Also, I doubt that the traditional Japanese training methods good for players with height. If so, why the tall players from Japan are so weak in power?

    Sorry, I'd like to bring up Nana Iwasaka again. Please look at her performance in World Championship 2018 and Asian Games 2018 . How many attacks and blocks she got? Why she was unable to play on the court when facing strong teams? She was not even the first lineup when again Argentina. Argentina was the weakest team in VNL 2018 and eventually got eliminated. Nana Iwasaka was first lineup with Mexico and Cameroon. Those 2 teams are considered to be underdogs in the whole tournament. Nana Iwasaka was the best domestic middle block in Japanese league. still unqualified to me. So how poor training Japan have to tall players.

    So back to my point, Mai Irisawa is a potential player. If you don't bring her to national team for training and competing, how long she will be physical ready for international competition when she is trained by club only?

  • Point taken :drink: Ferhat's podcast gave me the impression that National Team training isn't much different from club training, though. He said (with disappointment) that they spend most of their time working on 'individual needs', whatever those are.

    I agree with the approach of improving what you're good at over aiming for something you're unlikely to achieve, especially with regards to Japan where body types and attitude are so baked into the culture and gene pool that, for example, Nana Iwasaka could never physically train herself into being Yuan Xinyue--who isn't the greatest middle blocker in the world but what a beautifully built and proportioned 200+cm woman she is. And she's got attitude.

    So let's talk Middle Blocker options for 2019 NT

    For those interested and unfamiliar with Mai Irasawa (b. 1999/06/02, 187-189cm depending on who you ask) here's a video queued up to her signature play that netted her a lot of points this season (straight up against Sinéad btw):

    Miya Sato gets as much credit for that as Mai does (and give a little to Miyu Kubota who I can't stop talking about, for the pass). It's teamwork. I couldn't do volleyball if you paid me, but I think good teams with good coaches and good middle blockers would see that play coming a mile away. Mai doesn't jiggle around much, fake left or fake right or ... to Jeniawithlove 's point (I think) ... come at the thing with force (or better yet, brutality, like those attractive brunettes who MB for Serbia JoanaBG lol). I think my disagreement with Jeniawithlove and pope is that force and brutality come from attitude as much as physical training. The fake left or right ... dance lessons! But the Japanese are a polite people ....

    I've been singing Mai Irasawa praises all season, and have opined she probably can't bend down and touch her toes and she's not ready for NT. Jeniawithlove has changed my mind. Throw her in the pool, see if she swims, help her swim.

    Of the ones on last year's wide roster Araki, Iwasaka, and Okumura will be called. JT's game has changed so much this year, from goofy rapscallions to serious soldiers, I'm confused about Akutagawa; Shimamura goes from invisible to very effective in a heartbeat; Matsumoto hasn't really played volleyball in the 2-3 years I've been watching (but to be honest I boycotted watching Ageo games last year). So I dunno about those three.

    Let's dump Matsumoto for Irasawa, and for the sake of playing around and investing in young blood dump Shimamura in favor of Shimamura Jr: NEC's Nichika Yamada (b. 2000/02/24, 183cm). Due to the MB glut at NEC, Yamada hasn't seen any court time this season. I've only seen her play in the Asian Club games last summer and a few other matches I can't remember. Jeniawithlove , I don't know if you've seen her but she's solidly built. And she has Great Posture! A bit like Otake at 19, maybe a little huskier, a lot like Shimamura at 23ish--no killer instinct on display, unfortunately. No way she'll get the call but I can dream, like I dreamed of Akutagawa last year.

    Either one of the Ono Sisters would be fine. They are the best HULK SMASHERS in the league. And (because) they have attitude. I get the feeling they are persona-non-grata in Coach Nakada's eyes. Not sure why.

    Okayama Seagulls have a half dozen fine middle blockers. None of them qualified to post ranking stats because of the weirdo way Okayama plays volleyball. Scratch that. Blind Love reared its ugly head for a moment. sorry.

    Realistically, I'd pick one of the Toyota MBs who play with Erika Araki. That's got to be worth something. Aya Watanabe is big(ish) and tough, 7th in the league @kill%, has a good serve, moves slowly and doesn't block very well. Oops. Ayaka Sugi (b.1996/02/14, 178cm) should get a chance. Very quick and tricky. She's the best scoring local MB in the league and I love her face. Not cute, but so likeable. She's had a lot of experience in U-tournaments, and if we just give up any hope that any Japanese player can effectively block any of the giant people they are going to face in international competition, and focus solely on who can score, Sugi gets my vote.

  • Any additional thoughts on what you think might happen or what you'd like to see happen in 2019?

  • Setter Options for 2019 NT

    This time last year I would have said "bye bye

    Miya Sato

    , Hello

    Nanami Seki

    ", but after watching Miya Sato this club season I can't say that. And I really couldn't have said it last year, because for all practical purposes Nanami Seki didn't exist.

    Nanami Seki (b. 1999/06/12) looks promising, looks like she understands the court and executes confidently. She's a Gemini, likes to eat delicious things, and enjoys shopping and looking for furniture in her spare time.

  • OP options for 2019 NT

    Miyu Nagaoka :?:

    Mari Horikawa spent a good deal of this club season in street clothes. She's in street clothes now as the FINAL 8 is underway. She took 109 swings during the Regular Round and killed 50 of them. That's not bad. She can't carry a team, or even play a full match, but she's nice to have around when you need a BFG.

    Risa Shinnabe is 173cm and world class.

    Lacking a real OP, Rika Nomoto hits from the right side.

    Don't know if I've ever mentioned Hitachi's 171cm Rookie out of college Miyu Kubota :) She's a decently athletic dedicated OP with a stable serve who receives. She won't crack the squad for offense (153/398, 20 errors, 38.4% 20th in the league RR). And she doesn't attack from downtown :( If she can up her reception--from a reliable 60% (about the same as Mami Uchiseto who gets a spot on the NT for her reception skills) to a reliable 67.3%--she deserves a look.

    Japan NT is tilting old. Nagaoka's career could be over for all we know. Probably nothing happens until after 2020 but it seems like time to get something in the pipeline--especially with three meaningless fun tournaments this summer.

    Coach Nakada could also consider Okayama NoSmiler Sanae Watanabe for entertainment value 8o

  • sitenoise

    Changed the title of the thread from “Japan NT 2019” to “Japan NT 2019 Women”.
  • OH options for 2019 NT

    Here's one:

    Nana Sakamoto (1996/09/06 , 176cm-Denso). I've expressed concern that I think Coaches like her despite her lazy approach to defense. She's been a fixture in U-Tournaments for a while. She went to play in Europe this Club Season--Coach Nakada digs that. I won't be surprised if she makes the wide roster.

    Miyu Ishikawa (2000.05.14 , 174cm-Toray) is the only school kid whose name I've seen batted about here. I can't follow school ball at all.

    Coach Nakada has her little Hisamitsu stash, we rarely get to see play, growing old on the bench:

    Miyu Nakagawa

    Arisa Inoue

    Hikari Kato

    Nakagawa just turned 19 and is 182cm. She made last year's wide roster. Not old yet.

    Inoue is going to be 24, made last year's wide roster. I've been a vocal supporter of her offense but on the rare occasion we get to see her play she exudes a prima donna attitude towards the pedestrian concerns of Defense. Stop.

    Kato (1997/08/26 , 179cm) is one of those Higashi Kyushu Ryukoku H.S. kids. This is her third year of being a serve sub for Hisamitsu. Will it finally net her a wide roster spot?

    The CORE:

    Shinnabe - Ishii - Koga - Kurogo

    Interesting to see if this changes. Nagaoka is the unknown wildcard. Koga's diminishing returns the other. Kurogo starts, Ishii off the bench.

    2nd Tier:

    Nomoto - Nabeya - Takahashi - Horikawa - Uchiseto

    Nomoto is the consistently better of the bunch, but she never does anything to lift the team (an if-you-play-for-Hisamitsu problem). Nabeya was close to a disaster this club season. Takahashi seems like a player with an injury waiting to happen. I irrationally dislike Uchiseto. Horikawa is the only one I'd keep.


    Imamura - Aratani - (Nakagawa - Inoue)

    I irrationally adore Yuka Imamura. She should head the Montreux B-Team flanked by Shiori Aratani unless Japan sends a U-Squad.

    Japan might execute a strategy of mild experimentation at VNL, bold experimentation at Montreux (or send a U-Team), focus on the CORE for their Home Turf Swan Song WC before 2020.

    :teach: It's way above my pay grade, but this is the Internet ... Montreux should be the pivotal tournament for Japan this year. This is the squad I would send (for bold experimentation) and it means they should all make the NT wide roster:


    Miya Sato (Haruka Miyashita or Namami Seki)


    Whoever isn't Kobata or Inoue

    Middle Blocker:

    Mai Irasawa, Nichika Yamada (A Toyota MB and an Ono Sister)


    Miyu Kubota


    Yuka Imamura, Shiori Aratani (Mari Horikawa, Syūka Kaneda, Ruriko Uesaka)

    Honorable Mention to Nanami Hirose. I wrote here last summer that the AVC Club games were as transformational for her as the VNL was for Kurogo. I became a love volcano. And she did not disappoint when the V.League Season started, until she got injured. She has the ability to lift a team with kills that are worth more than 1 point. She appears emotionally fragile, though, and that's deadly for a jump-server.

    Postscript Sidenote (because I want to mention Hisae Watanabe and Miwako Osanai)

    If it weren't for the Okayama Seagulls, Hitachi would have won the award for a second year in a row as the team with the most entertainment value. Watanabe and Osanai are two players I'd like to see make the NT but I don't think they ever will. Watanabe is simply beautiful to watch off-the-ball. She sashays around the court like a figure skater and is as joyful as a Kurobe Aquafairy. She can swing a hundred times with a good percentage and not get tired. Osanai is one of a very few Japanese players who hit the ball with force and brutality, which is weird and cool because she may also be one of the meekest and sweetest of Japanese players. And she's got a cool, effective jump serve.

    Sanae Watanabe exists <3 Don't be surprised if she comes back next year as a right-hander.