Suntory sweep season series against Panasonic 4-0

This weekend’s Japanese V1 Men’s League highlight was the two-match series between league leaders Panasonic Panthers and third-placed Suntory Sunbirds. The Sunbirds had defeated Panasonic twice by 3-1 scores in November with the two clubs in position to meet again in the playoffs.

In Saturday’s match, the Panthers first took a 1-0 set lead. Set two, however, went all the way to 37-36, before Dmitriy Muserskiy served up an ace to level scores at 1-1. The third set had the Sunbirds use a 5-0 run at 7-6 to comfortably take a 2-1 set lead. With Panasonic needing to win the fourth set to stay alive in the match, the Panthers tried to gain a gap, but the Sunbirds would not allow it. At 18-18, two straight Muserskiy spikes gave the Sunbirds some room, and two hitting errors by the Panthers pushed it to 23-19 and another Panthers hitting error gave Suntory the set 25-20 and the match 3-1.

Muserskiy was unstoppable for Suntory with 42 points, including a block and four aces. He had 37 kills on 61 swings in the win. Shimizu for Panasonic had 19 points, with four aces in the loss.

On Sunday, Panasonic had a 2-1 set lead, but a 7-1 start in the fourth set by Suntory eventually led to a fifth set. The Panthers pounced ahead early with a 5-2 lead, through a Kubiak spike. Suntory, however, managed to tie the score. With Suntory serving at 11-10, Panasonic were blocked on consecutive points to push the lead to 13-10 for Suntory. With three match points at 14-11, Panasonic were able to fend off two of them to make it 14-13 Suntory. However, Muserskiy finished the match with a spike to give Suntory the set 15-13, the match 3-2, and a 4-0 sweep of the season series. Muserskiy again was dominant with 37 points, including six blocks and two aces. Shimizu was again the leading scorer for the Panthers with 24 points (2 blocks and 3 aces) in the loss.

The two losses for Panasonic gave Wolfdogs Nagoya a chance to take first spot in their series against VC Nagano Tridents. The Wolfdogs won both matches, 3-0 on Saturday and 3-1 on Sunday to push themselves into first place on points as both Nagoya and Suntory are tied on wins at 16. Poland’s Bartosz Kurek had 32 (2 blocks) in Saturday’s match and 34 (2 aces) in Sunday’s battle.

The high scoring in each of the matches by Muserskiy and Kurek was surpassed by Toray Arrows’ Hungarian player Krisztian Padar who had 46 (a block and 2 aces) in a 3-2 set win over FC Tokyo on Sunday. Padar had 43 kills on 81 swings.

JTEKT Stings kept pace with the top three teams with two 3-0 wins over Oita Miyoshi Weisse Adler. Brazilian Felipe Fonteles for JTEKT led in scoring over the weekend with 38 points (6 block, 4 aces).

Sakai Blazers and JT Thunders Hiroshima split their two matches over the weekend, JT winning on Saturday 3-1 and Sakai taking vengeance on Sunday 3-1.

Match results for January 30, 2021
Suntory Sunbirds – Panasonic Panthers 3-1 (22-25, 38-36, 25-16, 25-20)
Wolfdogs Nagoya – VC Nagano Tridents 3-0 (25-22 ,25-23, 25-20)
JT Thunders Hiroshima – Sakai Blazers 3-1 (25-22, 22-25, 25-23, 26-24)
JTEKT Stings – Oita Miyoshi Weisse Adler 3-0 (25-23, 25-16, 25-17)

Match results for January 31, 2021
Toray Arrows – FC Tokyo 3-2 (26-24, 21-25, 25-20, 23-25, 15-6)
Suntory Sunbirds – Panasonic Panthers 3-2 (25-23, 22-25, 24-26, 25-16, 15-13)
Sakai Blazers – JT Thunders Hiroshima 3-1 (17-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-21)
Wolfdogs Nagoya – VC Nagano Tridents 3-1 (25-20, 22-25, 25-17, 25-21)
JTEKT Stings – Oita Miyoshi Weisse Adler 3-0 (25-17, 25-21, 25-17)

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