Japan - 6th V9 Women's Champ League 2020

  • Japan - 6th (Reiwa 2) V9 Champ League
    (Women's First League) 2020

    Panasonic Bluebells
    (Champions 2019)

    Mazda Cross Nine
    (2nd Place 2019)

    Denso Ten Red Phoenix
    (3rd Place 2019)

    Ibiden Regulus
    (4th Place 2019)

    Kagoshima Bank Regionwings
    (5th Place 2019)

    Sanden Blue Ecores
    (6th Place 2019)

    Tokyo Higashi Shinkin Bank Blue Rabbits
    (7th Place 2019)

    Hita Kenshin White Dolphin
    (8th Place 2019)

    The tournament --usually contested during the summer months-- has been slightly condensed and rescheduled for Nov-Dec:

    1. Hiroshima Games (Nekota Memorial Gymnasium)
      Round 1-2: 2020/11/14 – 11/15
    2. Mie Competition (Hisai Gymnasium)
      Round 3-5: 2020/11/22 – 11/23
    3. Tokyo Games (BumB Tokyo Sports Culture Hall)
      Round 6-7: 2020/12/5 – 12/6
    4. Ogaki Games (Ogaki City Gymnasium)
      Final Round: 2020/12/19 – 12/20

    It's a Round Robin with the top four finishers competing in a Semifinal and 1st & 3rd place matches, and the bottom four finishers competing in a Semifinal and 5th & 7th place matches.


    Most all of this was scrapped. It ended up being a 3-day Tournament in Hiroshima 2020/11/13 – 11/15

    Like Japan V.League1 and V2, the bottom two finishers will compete with the top two finishers from the V9 Women's Second League in promotion/relegation matches.

    The V9 Champ League started in 2015. My google-translate understanding is that it was in response to the 2010 decision of the National Athletic Meet Volleyball Competition (one of the three major High School Tournaments) to discontinue 9-person volleyball. V9 Champ League is sponsored by the JVA, Business and Club Federations.

    The V9 Women's Second League began in 2018 and currently has six teams: three Business and three University.

    There are at present 3 or 4 National 9-person volleyball tournaments:

    • V9 Champ League (June)
    • All Japan Business Group (July) Since 1948)
    • All Japan General (October) (Since 1927)
    • All Japan Selection (Sakurada Memorial) (December) (Since 1986) Unsure exactly what this one is

    Teams also compete in local and regional competitions throughout the year. As an example, for the past several years the Panasonic Bluebells have competed in 3-4 National, 2-4 Local, and 2-3 Regional Tournaments each year. The National tournament dropped from their schedule the last couple years was the Business Group. I don't have any understanding of how the qualification system works among tournaments. It may be that the Bluebells didn't need to play/win the Business Group tournament to qualify for the Champ League.

    Moving forward, I believe with all my tenuous google-translate understanding, the V9 Champ League will become (if it isn't already) the most prestigious. It'll probably grow by a couple teams, especially the Women's Second League, and I think more University Teams will qualify for top honors.

    Speaking of the Bluebells, the team my back-court attacking middle-blocker hero Haruka Maruo joined (in what appears to be a Kevin Durant-style ring chasing move) have won this V9 Champ League all five times it's been contested. Not only that, of the 41 tournaments the Bluebells have contested since 2015 they've won 31 Gold Medals, 9 Silver, and 1 Bronze. Say no more.

  • As mentioned, Panasonic Bluebells are the overwhelmingly dominant team across the entire V9 landscape. The only team who has occasionally interrupted their winning ways over the past decade is Denso Ten Red Phoenix. They are the only two teams with a web site. They are also probably the only teams with a real volleyball coach, but I dunno. Money, I guess. A few of these top V9 Champ League teams don't even have a logo :(

    Panasonic Bluebells used to be Panasonic Energy (until 2014), and Denso Ten Red Phoenix used to be Fujitsu Ten Red Phoenix (until 2017) -- for what it's worth.

    Pioneer had a team, Red Sonics, who had a couple podium appearances in the last decade but as far as I can tell they may have disbanded after 2018.

    Of note: Gunma Bank Green Wings, who crushed the V.League Division 2 last season, used to be a 9-person team (until 2014). A J-Wiki article suggests Gunma Bank's departure from 9-ball accelerated the need for a new vision and the establishment of the V9 Champ League.

    Also: There is an Osaka Superiors team who just showed up in the 2020 Women's Second League. There was an Osaka Superiors team in V.League Division 2 until 2018. Don't know what, if any, the connection is.

    Seems to me that whomever, or whatever, is behind the 9volleyball.jp website and organization are trying to be a central clearinghouse for gathering sponsors and organizing competitions with the hope of creating stability and long term goals, and developing a league that isn't dominated by one or two teams with a bunch of others that come and go every few years. I'm here to help :)

    Some of the companies have more than one team. Shinkin Bank, for example. Panasonic has a second team, the Ghost in the Shelly named Panasonic Tsu Advance. I don't know what it is or what it means in Japanese (other than Tsu being the city where they are located). I'll have a story connected to Panasonic Tsu Advance in a future installment of this blog :S which will reveal the straw that broke this camel's back and prompted me to start the thread.

  • The only thing keeping me from buying the Blu-ray of last year's Championship matches is: I don't have a Blu-ray player :( I've contacted them to see if they are available for download.

    I'm hooked, and fearful this is going to make 6-ball V.League stuff seem slow and boring.

    I understand Haruka Maruo's decision now. If I was 22 years old and wanted to play volleyball for a few years until I started my 'career', 9-ball is what I would play.

    There are a LOT of high-quality players in this niche. No wonder the College Champion MVP and Best MB didn't land an immediate starting spot. The Bluebells front line is rock solid good. Two of them just retired so I'm sure she'll play this year -- if/when play resumes

  • Here's what faces can do for you ...

    I'm watching one of the pooshan videos of the 2019 V9 Champ League, the semifinal between Bluebells and Ibiden Regulus, and see this girl:

    I almost didn't recognize her with that big smile and the high-fiving and etc., but that's Mayu Takada of Okayama NoSmiler fame (2016-2019). She played a sizable role as Miyashita's backup in the legendary 2018 match between the NoSmilers and Forest Leaves. It was before Mizuki Ugajin took over that role.

  • More faces ....

    I was looking at the roster for the other Panasonic team, Tsu Advance, and noticed this familiar face:

    She's about to graduate from Kumamoto Shin-ai Girls High School, Sarina Koga's alma mater. Kumamoto met Kinrankai in the quarterfinals so that was the end of the line for them, but they were very good, ended up in 5th place.

    When I watch the HS games I jot down jersey numbers of players I find interesting. If they continue to impress over the course of a few matches, I will add a checkmark (√) next to their number in the hopes of discovering who they are in the future. I looked at my notes to last January's Championship. I had seven players with checkmarks. Manami Aoki (pictured here) had three checkmarks! I went back and watched her play. Damn. I was right. Super solid player.

    I also discovered three players from the Champion Higashi Kyushu Ryukoku squad have signed with Hita Medical Examination (Kenshin) White Dolphin. None of them were in the starting seven but the whole school is good. I guess if Hisamitsu doesn't pick you up you go 9-ball.

    V9 may become the center of my universe :)

  • I wrote about the Legendary Forest Leaves setter who does a traditional jump-set but waits until she lands to actually set the ball. It looks weird and uncomfortable, and devious. She must have played 9-ball. I've seen three setters do it over here in this universe. It's pretty effective, actually. When you're about to run a triple combination and, as the setter, you're the first one to do a fake jump, it's a little disorienting.

    When I watch V2 6-ball I hardly notice the setters. When I do it's usually to blame them for how V2 they are. They make bigger mistakes than V1 setters.

    I'm noticing the V9 setters a lot. They are deceptive about where they go with the ball. Maybe it's because of the end of court camera. Maybe it's because they are mostly all really short. Short setters have a longer time to decide what to do with the ball than tall setters. The good ones are really good at zooming the ball cross court giving three different attackers equal opportunity to hit the ball.

    At their best, these 9-ball matches are HULK SMASH Parties and Monica De Gennaro highlight reels of long distance passing. At their worst they're soft-block parties and wussy-whacking.

    It's remarkable that with nine people on court, none of whom are timid about trying to keep the ball off the floor, I've seen only one collision. It's all very well choreographed.


  • Bottom Line:

    Panasonic Bluebells also engage in 6-ball. They came in 4th place last year at the National Athletic Meet Volleyball Competition. I'm not quite sure what that is but Toray Arrows (Shiga) won it, Hisamitsu (Saga) was runner up. The Okayama Seagulls have won it a bunch of times, as has Gunma Bank. I'm sure Toray and Hisamitsu send B-teams, the NoSmilers I dunno.

    I mentioned in the opening post here that this tournament is the one that dropped 9-Ball in 2010, and the Wiki article that mentioned it as one of the three major High School tournaments. Toray and Hisamitsu aren't HS teams so I'm (google-translate) confused. I believe it's similar to the Empress Cup. It starts with Prefecture Tournaments, onto Regional, onto playing against the Big Girls.

    The prefecture representatives can be either a greatest hits package or an existing team. So Toray plays as Shiga, Hisamitsu as Saga and the Bluebells as Osaka. the Bluebells lost the Bronze Medal match against Ibaraki Prefecture. That could be Hitachi Rivale but I have no idea.

    BTW - there is also a junior level to the National Athletic Meet Volleyball Competition. Kinrankai and Shimokitazawa have been recent winners.

    According to this article, it was the Bluebells signing of my hero Haruka Maruo that prompted the foray into 6-ball. Not her alone, but the fact that she's teamed up now with this little beast:

    Erika Chuman

    Chuman is an award winning Best MB and Spiker from NSSU. She's one of the best players in the league and clearly the Captain of the Bluebells at this time. She plays Center, and her strength, to my eyes, is how quickly she terminates loose balls. While other players are still assessing what should be done with the ball, she's already killed it. Lovely.

    A good word must be said about the Bluebells setter. She does that weirdo jump-set-land-set-the-ball move, is a scrappy little center court floor defender (as are many 9-ball setters), and looks like she's doing a yoga back bend during a standing set. She graduated from a no-name high school three years ago and immediately took over the team. She reminds me a lot of Tsukasa Nakagawa, the World Champion U20 squad Best Setter. Say hello to the aptly named:

    Mifuyu Kato

    Game of Thrones s01ep6

  • I got the Blu-ray versions of last year's Final 8 matches! I went back and forth with them about ordering and simply couldn't do it because my postal code is 5 digits instead of (Japan's) 7 digits, not to mention my cc. So they just gave them to me :). They arrived on my birthday <3 Love is love <3

    They aren't the goldmine I was hoping for. They're not pro-level TV broadcasts. The fidelity is very good, the lighting is good, but the camera work is about on par with V2 streams. Mostly single camera side court, or end court, with occasional zooms from another handheld camera--some of which are very nice because the roaming camera is close to the court. Inexplicably, and disappointingly, they are mostly edited pooshan-style--cutting from the moment a point is scored to the serve. That's the time when they could zoom in on whomever scored the point so you could see what they look like :( but alas.

    All in all I'm grateful to have them. I am getting a better read on the personalities of some players. I'm head over heels for the Bluebells' setter, Mifuyu Kato (pictured above in the previous post). She is so classy and so good at what she does. The court is hers :rose:

  • If I wasn't already married to the Panasonic Bluebells my favorite team would be Mazda Cross Nine. They have great spirit, a deceptive commando setter, and one of the best attackers in the league:

    Ayaka Kamada

    She plays left of Center middle-blocker. The style of that position is more MB than OH. Fast kills and HULK SMASHES.

    Bonus points awarded for her profile answer to "Introduce yourself":


    Cha-san's favorite beautiful spyker.

    Self-appearance is pretty, contents are the same. I see.

    Your google-translate Mileage May Vary

  • The Panasonic Bluebells have made the podium in every tournament they've played since 2007 -- 91 Tournaments / 63 Gold Medals / 24 Silver / 4 Bronze.

    That's crazy, but it seems like in the tournaments I've seen there are usually only 4 good teams and 4 not-so-good teams. So being 3 out of 4 isn't that hard. But 63/91 Gold Medals is impressive.

    I don't usually like dominant teams, but I didn't know about it when I started this excursion. The problem for teams with a record like that is they often turn out to be bad losers. If I see any poor-loser shit from the Bluebells I will jump ship to Mazda in a heartbeat :)

    Truth be told, Mazda is my kind of team: scrappy, fun-loving, underdogs. Damn these arranged marriages. Damn you Bluebells :P

  • Just watched the 2018 All Japan Final 9-person: Bluebells v Denso Ten. They played the whole match with one ball 8)

  • Nowdays you even struggle to find a player who can actually set the ball in place of the setter. :down: [...]

    And it's not just passing. They can't kill high balls or out of system, while they make holes on the taraflex with fast sets, so I'm the only one left to deal with the trash setting. :whistle: [...]


    I didn't want to spew on the Serbia Thread but I wanted to respond. I've been working on a post for why I like 9-ball, and it's mostly those two things.

    Because of the Block-Touch=First Touch rule in 9-ball, the next person to touch the ball has to set it. And half the time it's a backcourt player who's deep, or off to the side, which means the attacker has to kill a high ball coming over her shoulder. And more often than not the sets are Moki good and the attackers swing with authority. It's remarkable*. Since that's the game they play they must practice the shit out of it.

    I think a little bit of swinging hard at OOS balls is also an attitude of: "Fuck it, we're playing 9-ball. We don't care about Kumi Nakada noticing our hit %". Many V2 players seem to share that attitude. It's like the further away I get from from NT ball the more it showcases the skills I enjoy most. If I was interested in who's the biggest and strongest, I'd watch weightlifting :S

    *To be fair there is also a good share of wussy whacking that goes on.

  • If I wasn't already married to the Panasonic Bluebells my favorite team would be Mazda Cross Nine. They have great spirit, a deceptive commando setter, and one of the best attackers in the league:

    Ayaka Kamada

    "Self-appearance is pretty, contents are the same. I see."

    Have a look at a few swings from this 169cm monster. She's #9 in Red (left side):

  • Panasonic Bluebells and Denso Ten Red Phoenix will broadcast a match on Twitter September 20 @ 11:00am JST

    For details, please check the official Twitter of each team ( Panasonic Bluebells / Denso Ten Red Phoenix ).

  • They are playing with masks on

    — Panasonic Bluebells (@1bluebells) September 20, 2020

    Not cool. Denso is clobbering the Bluebells

  • Three blockers and six people choreographed up for block coverage. They do this 5-10 times per play. It's dance. I love this game:

  • Panasonic Bluebells may have a little struggle winning their 6th straight Championship. They've lost two very good veteran left side attackers to retirement and lent one of their best back court players to Saitama. But they still have these two exquisite beasts:

    #6 Kanae Kobayashi, southpaw OP (fellow Tokai Mermaid with Misaki Yamauchi when they won Gold) takes care of all the desperate skyballs sent to the net, no matter where they are, with authority. She has the most aggressive, confident swing I've seen from any Japanese player at balls coming in over her shoulder. A delight to behold.

    #4 Captain Erika Chuman, takes care of all the balls that have been rallying on for too long. Her nickname is: "This play is over". She's a master of first and second contact kills that debilitate opponents. In system, she's a quick bazooka in the middle. Another absolute delight to watch.

    If everything goes as planned the Championship starts in a month. Good luck girls :drink:

  • The men's first round, which was scheduled for 11/28, has been cancelled but the ladies are still hanging on. The women's Final Round is scheduled to start two weeks earlier than that, 11/13, has been announced as non-spectator, but not cancelled. Hang in there girls :rose:

  • This starts in three days and there's still no Schedule Combination

  • Well, it's underway. But the web site and it's 'up-to-the-minute' tweetbox are not. The Bluebells tried to stream their first match live on their tweetbox. It was crap, but soon the (single cam end court) videos will show up at the 9-ball site.

    Two teams are not participating: Sanden Blue Ecoers and Hita Kenshin White Dolphin. They are both medical field teams, so ....

    I've been able to determine that the Bluebells, Denso, and Ibiden won their first matches. They will play a second match in an hour or so.

    Six teams divided into two groups and they play it all out in Day 1 on two courts, then semifinals and 5th place match tomorrow, and Final the next day. ZOOM! LOL

    Group A: ① Panasonic BlueBells ④ IBIDEN Regulus ⑥ Tokyo Higashi Shinkin Bank

    Group B: ② Mazda X9 ③ DENSO Ten Red Phoenix ⑤ Kagoshima Bank Regionwings