Wolfdogs with a two-match advantage for last playoff berth

Entering the last weekend of February in Japan’s V1 Men’s League, the race to the playoffs is getting closer and appears to be a battle between Wolfdogs Nagoya and the JTEKT Stings for the last playoff spot.

Suntory Sunbirds (first place) and Panasonic Panthers (second place) built gaps over Nagoya before the weekend and look to clinch their playoff berths in a couple of weeks.

While the superstars of Bartosz Kurek and Yuji Nishida for Nagoya and JTEKT respectively are often the dominant player in their teams, others are performing to try and guide their teams to the playoffs.

Last week, we profiled Felipe Fonteles for JTEKT, but this week we will talk about outside hitter Kenta Takanashi for Nagoya. The 190 cm Takanashi is in his third season for Nagoya and joined the team after playing in college at the Nippon Sport Science University Setagaya Campus in Tokyo. Takanashi also played for Japan in the FIVB Volleyball Men’s U23 World Championship, where Japan finished sixth.

In the matches over the weekend, the Wolfdogs faced Oita Miyoshi Weisse Adler and swept both matches 3-0. On Saturday, Takanashi had 14 points (two blocks and an ace) and Sunday Takanashi was a wall for Nagoya with three blocks as part of his 10 points. Kurek had 39 points (two blocks and three aces) in the two matches for the Wolfdogs.

At the end of play at the weekend, Takanashi was 16th in the league with a kill percentage of 48.8% and ninth in scoring with 406 points in 93 sets played.

Teammate Kurek is the league leader with 671 points with 87 sets played.

JTEKT Stings needed to keep pace with the Wolfdogs, but split their weekend series with FC Tokyo. On Saturday, the Stings swept their opponents 3-0, but on Sunday FC Tokyo used a 12-6 blocking advantage to sweep the Stings 3-0. The loss pushed JTEKT two games behind Nagoya in the battle for the last playoff spot with 10 matches left.

Suntory Sunbirds and Panasonic Panthers took both matches from their opponents JT Thunders Hiroshima and VC Nagano respectively. Suntory’s magic number (combination of wins and JTEKT losses) for clinching a playoff berth is four, while Panasonic’s magic number (combination of wins and JTEKT losses) for clinching a playoff berth is six.

Lastly the Toray Arrows and Sakai Blazers went five sets in both matches in their weekend series. On Saturday, Toray used a Haku Lee spike to end the match 3-2. While on Sunday the Blazers needed to go extra points in the fifth set to win 16-14 on a Yukiya Uno kill. Sakai finished the weekend in fifth place, but have played three more matches than Toray in sixth place.

Match results for February 27, 2021
Toray Arrows – Sakai Blazers 3-2 (25-20, 21-25, 25-23, 21-25, 15-12)
Wolfdogs Nagoya – Oita Miyoshi Weisse Adler 3-0 (25-22, 25-19, 25-18)
Panasonic Panthers – VC Nagano 3-0 (25-20, 25-23, 25-14)
Suntory Sunbirds – JT Thunders Hiroshima 3-0 (25-20, 25-21, 25-23)
JTEKT Stings – FC Tokyo 3-0 (25-20, 25-21, 25-20)

Match results for February 28, 2021
Sakai Blazers – Toray Arrows 3-2 (19-25, 23-25, 25-21, 25-23, 16-14)
Suntory Sunbirds – JT Thunders Hiroshima 3-0 (25-23, 25-20, 25-22)
FC Tokyo – JTEKT Stings 3-0 (25-23, 25-21, 25-23)
Wolfdogs Nagoya – Oita Miyoshi Weisse Adler 3-0 (25-20, 25-13, 25-19)
Panasonic Panthers – VC Nagano 3-2 (25-15, 20-25, 20-25, 25-14, 15-13)

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