A selection of 40 players will start preparations for the upcoming season

Mayu Ishikawa on the serve

Japanese women’s national team coach Masayoshi Manabe announced a roster of 40 players, including 12 first-timers, on whose services he will rely for the upcoming 2023 season. Volleyball Nations League 2023 and the Paris 2024 Olympic qualification tournament are the highlights on Hinotori Nippon’s calendar this year.

The selection includes as many as 13 of the 14 athletes who represented Japan at last year’s FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship in the Netherlands and Poland, where the team finished in fifth place. The only one missing is libero Mami Uchiseto.

The announced list highlights the return of 31-year-old spiker Miyu Nagaoka, who last played for Japan back in 2018, after winning a 2014 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix silver and Dream Team nomination, as well as a number of podiums, MVP awards and other individual honours with the team on continental level.

Among the rookies on the list is the youngest player selected by coach Manabe, 16-year-old opposite of Kyoei Gakuen High School Miku Akimoto. The talented young athlete is the daughter of London 2012 Olympic and 2010 World Championship bronze medalist Ai Otomo.

“Akimoto is a well-balanced and promising athlete who will carry Japan on her shoulders,” coach Manabe said about her.

The pre-season preparation starts on April 3 at the Ajinomoto National Training Center in Tokyo. After that, the long list will be narrowed down to about 20 players in May, and then there will be a 12-day training camp in Satsumasendai and another six-day camp at an undisclosed location before the start of VNL 2023 on May 30, when Hinotori Nippon welcome another seven teams for a first-week tournament in Nagoya.

Eventually, there will be two different groups preparing for the Olympic qualifier and for this year’s continental tournaments, the Asian Championship and the Asian Games. From September 16 through 24, Japan will battle for a spot at Paris 2024 in qualification Pool B, hosting Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Peru, Puerto Rico and Turkiye in a race for two Olympic tickets.

Japan women’s national team full roster:

Setters: Aki Momii, Koyomi Iwasaki, Mika Shibata, Nanami Seki, Tamaki Matsui, Tsukasa Nakagawa

Opposites / outside hitters: Aimi Okawa, Ameze Miyabe, Amika Saiki, Arisa Inoue, Kotona Hayashi, Mayu Ishikawa, Miku Akimoto, Minami Nakamoto, Miwako Osanai, Miyu Nagaoka, Miyu Nakagawa, Mizuki Tanaka, Sarina Koga (captain), Yoshino Sato, Yuka Sato, Yuki Nishikawa, Yukiko Wada

Middle blockers: Airi Miyabe, AngelinaYuki Kobayashi, Aya Watanabe, Ayaka Araki, Erina Ogawa, Haruyo Shimamura, Kyoko Aoyagi, Mai Irisawa, Mami Yokota, Nichika Yamada, Shion Hirayama

Liberos: Hitomi Fukumoto, Manami Kojima, Miiku Iwasawa, Minami Nishimura, Satomi Fukudome, Yuka Meguro

“Starting from 10th place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, under the slogan of ‘Breakthrough’ last season, we finished seventh in the VNL and fifth at the World Championship, and we moved up from ninth to sixth in the FIVB World Ranking,” said coach Manabe at Monday’s press conference. 

“Last season, I aimed for the best serve reception in the world and I was striving for stability. Reception was good. The team’s attack effectiveness rate exceeded 30%, which is very close to the world level. On the other hand, in blocking, the difference from the rest of the world is huge, and here is where I think our weak point is. But serving is our key problem and, after the World Championship, we have reviewed it many times with the staff. We came to the conclusion that it is the most important thing to improve in the future.”

Watch Volleyball Nations League 2023 on VBTV


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