Top three teams stay in contention

At the halfway point of the Japanese V1 Men’s League, currently we have the Panasonic Panthers, Wolfdogs Nagoya and Suntory Sunbirds in a three-way race to take the regular season Japanese title. First place in the regular season is guaranteed a spot in the league final.

The weekend started on Friday night (January 22nd) with the Wolfdogs facing the JTEKT Stings and also a battle of international opposites, Poland’s Bartosz Kurek for Nagoya and Japan’s Yuji Nishida for JTEKT.

In this battle, Kurek landed a knockout as he scored 40 points (2 blocks and 2 aces) for the Wolfdogs in their 3-1 win over JTEKT. Nishida could only muster 22 points (4 aces). The Wolfdogs outspiked the Stings 65-46, a 19 point difference. Kurek had 36 kills on 53 swings, while Nishida only had 18 kills on 39 swings. Kurek was 18 points better and was literally the difference in the spiking game.

On Saturday in the rematch, Kurek got support from Kenta Takanashi with 20 points (1 block and 2 aces) in their 3-0 sweep of the Stings. Nishida could only provide 11 points (2 blocks) in the loss. If the Panasonic Panthers lost, the Wolfdogs could jump into first place.

The Panthers met JT Thunders Hiroshima in their two matches over the weekend. On Saturday, Panasonic dominated the Thunders 3-0, which had the Panthers increasing their gaps in each set. Kunihiro Shimizu had 18 points (1 ace) in the win for the Panthers.

Australian Thomas Edgar for the Thunders put up 27 points on Sunday, but with four players in double digits for the Panthers, Akihiro Yamauchi (11), Tsubasa Hisahara (18), Issei Ohtake (11) and Michal Kubiak (14), Panasonic did just enough to win the match 3-1. The two wins keep the Panthers in first place.

Suntory Sunbirds played the Toray Arrows in their weekend series of matches. Dmitriy Muserskiy and Masahiro Yanagida for the Sunbirds combined for 79 points over the two days. Muserskiy with 49 (4 blocks and 1 ace) and Yanagida with 30 (1 block and 2 aces) pushed Suntory to the 3-1 (Saturday) and 3-0 (Sunday) wins. The wins allowed Suntory to keep pace with Panasonic and Nagoya. Suntory have two more games to play than Panasonic or Nagoya and could become the league leaders if they win those two extra games.

Sakai Blazers took advantage of the Stings’ two losses to climb up the standings to fourth place with their two wins over Oita Miyoshi Weisse Adler.

VC Nagano Tridents had two upset wins over FC Tokyo, 3-0 on Saturday and a come from behind win on Sunday 3-2. Indonesia’s Rivan Nurmulki led all scorers in the two matches with 56 points (7 blocks, 4 aces).

Match Results for January 22, 2021
Wolfdogs Nagoya – JTEKT Stings 3-1 (25-17, 21-25, 25-15, 25-19)

Match Results for January 23, 2021
Suntory Sunbirds – Toray Arrows 3-1 (21-25, 25-20, 26-24, 25-22)
VC Nagano Tridents – FC Tokyo 3-0 (25-18, 25-23, 25-22)
Panasonic Panthers – JT Thunders Hiroshima 3-0 (25-19, 25-16, 25-13)
Wolfdogs Nagoya – JTEKT Stings 3-0 (25-18, 25-22, 25-13)
Sakai Blazers – Oita Miyoshi Weisse Adler 3-1 (25-17, 20-25, 25-21, 25-21)

Match Results for January 24, 2021
Suntory Sunbirds – Toray Arrows 3-0 (25-21, 26-24, 25-21)
VC Nagano Tridents – FC Tokyo 3-2 (25-22, 15-25, 15-25, 34-32, 15-13)
Panasonic Panthers – JT Thunders Hiroshima 3-1 (26-24, 25-23, 19-25, 25-20)
Sakai Blazers – Oita Miyoshi Weisse Adler 3-2 (23-25, 25-20, 25-14, 21-25, 15-12)

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