Taipei, Chinese Taipei, April 24, 2019 – Devastating Panasonic Panthers, the only unbeaten team in the 2019 Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championship, stormed their way into the semi-finals after demolishing Australia’s Queensland Pirates in comfortable straight sets 25-14 25-18 25-9 at the University of Taipei (Tianmu) Gymnasium on Wednesday.

Issei Otake was the lone Japanese player to score double-digit 14 points from 10 attacks, 3 blocks and one ace for Panasonic Panthers, while William Mercer led Queensland Pirates with 10 points including 9 attack hits.

Panasonic Panthers started their Wednesday’s quarter-final clash against Queensland Pirates strongly and confidently after the Japanese side rallied past indomitable Varamin from Iran, one of the hot favourite teams in this tournament, 3-2 in their last top-8 playoff match on Monday.

Panthers remained strong in their starting lineup with the likes of Michel Kubiak, who played in the Poland national team to win the world title two times in row in 2014 and 2018, hard-hitting Issei Otake and Japan national team veteran setter Hideomi Fukatsu, while powerful hitter William Mercer and Mark Nicolaidis spearheaded Queensland Pirates.

After a remarkable unbeaten run in this topflight competition, Panasonic Panthers proved once again a well-oiled machine as Kubiak and Otake yielding several crucial points to take an early 8-2 lead and stay a seven-point clear at 14-7. Mercer overcame the Japanese solid blocks with his exceptional attacks, but the gap between the two sides remained wide. Leading commandingly 20-12, Panthers sent in Chen Chien-Chen, star spiker from Chinese Taipei national team, to add power to the team’s attacks. An Otake’s sharp spike from the back row gave Panthers a 24-14 lead before Kubiak attacked powerfully for the Japanese’s comfortable set win 25-14.

Panasonic Panthers replaced Kubiak with another ace spiker Tatsuya Fukuzawa in the second set. However, after conceding one set, Queensland Pirates fought back hard against them to make amends for the loss in the opening set. Aussies set an early pace 4-1, thanks to their improved defensive tactics and Mercer’s thundering attacks. Panthers clawed back into game as Fukuzawa and Otake combined well to frustrate Aussies with powerful spikes to catch up with rivals at 4-4 and went on their fine form to advance with four points ahead at 22-18. From that point, Panasonic Pirates attacked relentlessly, while Aussies became more prone with back-to-back unforced mistakes. The Japanese side clinched the second set 25-18 after a spike from Connor O’Neill went out.

The third set turned out to be a one-way traffic as Panasonic Panthers maintained their poise to race to a commanding 19-9 lead and never looked back after that, winning six straight points to capture the effortless set 25-9, match and a semi-final berth.

“I’m happy that we won the match. My players did a good job. I think Queensland Pirates had power and height, so we tried to come up with good serves in order that we could adjust them. We made a lot of player rotation in this match because we still have two more matches and I have to make sure everyone’s condition is fine and then I sent in almost every player into this match. It’s likely that we are due to next take on Al-Rayyan in the semi-finals. They are a good team with height advantage. We will try to come up with a good game against them,” Panasonic Panthers head coach Shinji Kawamura commented after the mach.


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