Japan aim for home victory & USA gun for back to back wins

Saturday, 29 Sep 2018
Lawrence Fernandez - Editor - @lancefernandez

The FIVB Women’s World Championship 2018 is finally upon us! For close to a month, the best women’s volleyball players in the world will converge in Japan to fight for supremacy in the sport. Thus, its perfect to look at two of widely-anticipated teams in the competition: hosts Japan and defending champion United States

Team Japan – aiming for home victory

The FIVB Women’s Volleyball World Championship 2018 will be the fifth time that Japan is hosting the tournament and they will try to get a fourth World Championship. After winning their first title in 1962, they won back-to-back in 1967 in a tournament that was participated by only four teams.

The Japanese won again in 1974 but lost to Cuba in the 1978 title game. It would take 32 years before they won any medal in this competition by bagging bronze at home soil. However, they only finished seventh in the 2014 World Championship. This time around, they wouldn’t want to disappoint their fans as they send the best team they can possibly field.

At the helm for the Japanese is three-time Olympian and former Hisamitsu Springs head coach Kumi Nakada. The first female head coach for Japan’s senior women’s volleyball team won three V.League Division 1 titles with the Springs and she would know which buttons to click given that she was a setter during her playing days.

Nana Iwasaka will lead the sixth-best team in the world as captain and she will be joined by players with much experience. Setters Koyomi Tominaga, Kanami Tashiro, and Miya Sato can bring the ball to the likes of opposite spiker Miyu Nagaoka who was Game MVP against the Philippine women’s volleyball team during the 2018 Asian Games and wing spiker Sarina Koga who is returning from injury.

The Japanese arsenal of spikers continues with Risa Shinnabe, Yuki Ishii, Ai Kurogo, and Yurie Nabeya. Meanwhile, they have a deep rotation at middle blocker with Erika Araki, Haruyo Shimamura and Mai Okumura. But while they have a number of options on offense, impeccable defense will always be Japan’s calling card. Thus, the intensity on that side of the ball will be set by liberos Kotoe Inoue and Mako Kobata.

Japan is part of Pool A of the FIVB Women’s World Championship with Argentina, Netherlands, Mexico, Cameroon, and Germany. They will open the tournament against Argentina and follow with games against Mexico and Cameroon. They will wrap up pool play against the Germans on October 4.

United States – gunning for back-to-back

What’s better than winning over world number one China in four sets to claim the 2014 World Championship? Winning it again, this time in Japan. There is certainly a big bullseye in the back of the United States coming in as defending champion. However, the squad of coach Karch Kiraly is up to the challenge with its combination of experience and youth. Eight of his 14-woman roster have played in the Olympics while seven of them were part of the 2014 World Championship roster.

Returning for another World Championship duty are middle blockers Tori Dixon, Foluke Akinradewo, and Rachel Adams as well 2014 World Championship Most Valuable Player Kim Hill and opposite spiker Jordan Larson. Opposite spiker Kelly Murphy and libero Kelsey Robinson completes the list. Meanwhile, the Olympic experience of opposite spiker Karsta Lowe and setter Carli Lloyd completes the core of players that will defend the crown for the second-ranked team in the world.

Completing their roster are Volleyball Nations League MVP Michelle Bartsch-Hackley, setter Micha Hancock, middle blocker Lauren Gibbenmeyer, outside hitter Sarah Wilhite Parsons, and libero Megan Courtney. Using their height advantage and power game in the wings, the USA has compiled a 26-4 record in the 2018 volleyball year and one would be hard-pressed to find any weakness in their rotation.

The United States is part of Pool C in the FIVB Women’s World Championship 2018 together with Azerbaijan, Russia, South Korea, Thailand, and